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California Democrats Rush To Approve Gun-Control Measures

Guns seized by the police are displayed during a news conference, Oct. 27, 2015.
Associated Press
Guns seized by the police are displayed during a news conference, Oct. 27, 2015.

The California Legislature on Thursday sent Gov. Jerry Brown 12 gun-control measures as Democratic lawmakers try a last-ditch effort to convince Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to drop a proposed ballot initiative.

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Legislative leaders hailed the move as the nation's most aggressive gun control effort and proof that firearm restrictions are politically viable. Their measures earned a sharp rebuke from gun-rights advocates who say the Legislature is shredding constitutional gun-ownership rights.


Senior California Democrats have been waging an increasingly tense battle over how to strengthen the state's gun laws. Newsom, a Democrat running for governor in 2018, is promoting a ballot measure that includes some of the same policies approved by the Legislature Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, wants the Legislature to address the issue, fearing gun-control would fail at the ballot box or at least drive up turnout of conservatives who will vote against Democrats.

"We are proving to the rest of the nation as well as the rest of the world that we are ready to act," de Leon said.

Newsom has until 5 p.m. Thursday to withdraw his measure from the November ballot. A spokesman, Dan Newman, said Newsom would not do so.

In a statement provided by Newman, Newsom said he's pleased that the Legislature approved the gun-control measures and that they'd represent a meaningful step.


"Now, with the Safety for All initiative, voters will finally have a chance to take matters into their own hands and keep the momentum going with bold reforms that build and expand well beyond today's achievements," Newsom said.

Brown, a Democrat who has in the past vetoed some gun-control measures and signed others, hasn't said whether he'll sign the bills or if he'll do so in time for Newsom to drop his ballot measure. Brown's spokesman, Evan Westrup, declined to comment.

Lawmakers approved a bill expanding a six-month-old program that allows courts to temporarily restrict gun ownership rights for people with potential mental health problems. Currently, immediate family members and law-enforcement officers who are concerned someone may be a danger can seek a court order temporarily restricting the person's right to own or buy a gun. AB2607 would expand that right to employers, co-workers, mental health workers and employees of high schools or universities.

They also backed a measure regulating ammunition sales, requiring sellers to get licenses and buyers to be screened. They voted to ban assault weapons with features known as bullet buttons, which allow a shooter to quickly change magazines. And they backed legislation requiring people to turn in magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

"The Legislature's manic attack on law-abiding gun owners, democracy, and the legislative process jeopardizes not only civil rights but public respect for the law and our governmental institutions," Craig DeLuz, a lobbyist for the gun-rights advocacy group Firearms Policy Coalition, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Assembly asked Brown to declare a state of emergency on homelessness, which he has resisted doing. The move came just after legislators approved a massive investment in the nation's largest population of mentally ill homeless people with a $2 billion bond to build permanent, supportive housing.

Democratic lawmakers say homelessness is a public health crisis affecting tens of thousands more people than those who will be helped with the bond.

Brown has repeatedly turned down the idea of an emergency declaration, saying local governments are best suited to address homelessness.

The Assembly voted 59-11 Thursday to ask him to do as Hawaii did to free up disaster funds and provide swift assistance.

Brown has endorsed the bond, which the Assembly sent to him on a 62-4 vote.

After approving the gun bills and homeless measures, lawmakers began a month-long break without acting on several pieces of the state budget that remain unsettled a day before the Friday start of a new fiscal year.

Lawmakers have not yet passed three of the 17 bills that comprise the state budget due to sticking points that remain between the Assembly, Senate and governor. For example, the Assembly's version of one bill would restrict orca breeding and performances while the Senate's version does not.

The delay in passing three measures known as "trailer bills" does not restrict the state's ability to spend money in the new fiscal year.