SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Democrats in the California Senate made another attempt Thursday to outlaw the sale of assault weapons with easily detachable ammunition magazines as part of a wide-ranging slate of gun control bills that were approved.
Lawmakers also voted to require that people turn in magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds as they approved nearly a dozen measures that would significantly reshape California’s gun laws, already among the strictest in the U.S. The move follows last year’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino.
Democratic legislative leaders are rushing to head off a ballot measure advocated by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, which would ask voters to enact many of the same policies.
California’s assault-weapon ban prohibits new rifles with magazines that can be detached without the aid of tools. To get around the law, gun makers developed so called bullet buttons that allow a shooter to quickly dislodge the magazine using the tip of a bullet or other small tool.
Outlawing bullet buttons and high-capacity magazines is a priority for gun control advocates, who hope that making it harder to reload would limit the carnage a mass shooter can inflict. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 vetoed the Legislature’s last attempt to ban bullet buttons, saying it was too far-reaching. A high-capacity magazine ban failed in the state Assembly that year.
“We cannot stand by while our communities suffer from this horrific violence,” said Sen President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.
The debate has fallen along familiar lines, with Democrats advocating a crackdown on guns in the name of safety and Republicans saying that tougher gun laws only hinder people intent on following the law.
“Gun ownership is a constitutional bedrock,” said Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills. “We can’t smash the 2nd Amendment into a million pieces and expect America to be as free and strong as it’s always been.”
Senators approved 11 gun-related bills in total.
They include regulations for homemade firearms, background checks for ammunition purchases, a ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds, a mandate to report lost or stolen guns, a ban on loaning firearms to friends, and funding for a gun-violence research center.
The debate in the Senate comes as Newsom, a Democrat running for governor in 2018, is advocating a November gun control ballot measure incorporating many of the policies the Senate backed Thursday. Some Democrats worry the initiative will fire up gun rights supporters, potentially increasing turnout of conservative voters who could impact the result in close districts.
De Leon, the top Senate leader, wrote to Newsom last month asking him to hold off on his initiative and allow lawmakers to tackle the problem. Newsom declined.
The measures go to the state Assembly, where Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, and other Democrats have publicly backed similar policies.
“We raise our children in communities, not war zones,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael. “Military assault weapons have no place on our streets and gun violence must not be tolerated.”
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