Southern California breaking news and trends

Photo of Obama firing a shotgun misses mark with critics

Pete Souza / The White House

President Barack Obama firing at skeet at Camp David in August, 2012.

To appease skeptics who doubted Barack Obama when he said in an interview that he shoots skeet "all the time", the White House on Saturday obeyed the Internet rule of "pics or it didn't happen" and released a photo taken of the president firing a shotgun in August.

The controversy began on Sunday when, during an interview with the New Republic, President Obama was asked if he had ever fired a gun. 

"Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time," he responded, adding that he has a "profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake."

What was dismissed, however, was the accuracy of his claim to have shot skeet.

“If he is a skeet shooter, why have we not heard of this?” Replubican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee asked Erin Burnett on CNN on Monday. “Why have we not seen photos? Why has he not referenced it at any point in time as we have had this gun debate that is ongoing?”


Demand for guns rose sharply in California in 2012

Gun Buyback - 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

There's been a run on guns in California in the past year. What's driving the demand?

Data from the California Department of Justice indicates that firearm sales in California reached historic peaks during the year just ended. 

In 2012, the state agency processed more than 800,000 applications to purchase firearms. That’s a 36 percent jump from the year before and the highest number since 1991. To put that in perspective, about 500,000 babies were born in the state in 2010.

In the last decade, gun buying has risen steadily. Applications in California have risen in all but two years, dating back to 2003. 

Why the run on guns?

Bruce Colodny, a defense attorney who specializes in gun-related offenses, says, "people are concerned that if they don’t buy a certain firearm now, or an accessory, that new laws will be enacted and they will be unable to do so in the future.”


Compton gun buyback Monday is effort to take firearms off streets

Rina Palta (KPCC)

Deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department log rifles during a "gifts for guns" program in Compton January 21, 2013.

There was an extra drive-through in the parking lot of Compton's Towne Center shopping mall on Monday: A gun buyback program.

Car after car pulled into the lot, with rifles, handguns, shotguns, and in some cases assault rifles packed into their trunks. And car by car, deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sorted through the firearms, made sure they were disabled, and sent drivers on their way with gift certificates for Target and Ralph's.

An assault rifle netted a $200 giftcard; a regular rifle, shotgun, or handgun $100; and an inoperable gun $50. Deputies were happy to take ammunition rounds as well, but those didn't earn giftcards.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes Compton and who helped get $75,000 for the event, said in the first hour the buyback averaged about two guns a minute. 


Federal database for mental health background checks incomplete

Obama And Biden Unveil Proposal To Decrease Gun Violence In U.S.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama signs a series of executive orders about the administration's new gun law proposals as children who wrote letters to the White House about gun violence, (L-R) Hinna Zeejah, Taejah Goode, Julia Stokes and Grant Fritz, look on in the Eisenhower Executive Office building January 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. One month after a massacre that left 20 school children and 6 adults dead in Newtown, Connecticut, the president unveiled a package of gun control proposals that include universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Among President Barack Obama's executive actions on gun control Wednesday was a pledge to address “unnecessary legal barriers” in health care privacy laws that he said may be preventing states from reporting people with mental illnesses to a federal background check database.

Under federal law, people with significant mental illnesses can't own guns, according to attorney Lindsay Nichols.

"Those include individuals who’ve been committed to a mental hospital. It also includes individuals who’ve been determined by a court to be a danger to themselves or others," said public interest lawyer Lindsay Nichols.

But, she said, this database is incomplete. The Government Accountability Office reported in July that the database has 1.2 million records in it, well short of the approximately 3 million it should contain.


8,000 melted weapons get a shot at a new life in construction

guns melted

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

“These weapons that you see here will never again be used to commit a crime or used to threaten or intimidate an innocent victim,” said Sheriff Lee Baca.

Melted down at a local still mill, more than 8,000 weapons seized in Los Angeles County will get a shot a new life when they're turned into construction rebar rods.

The weapons, collected by 20 law enforcement agencies as part of "Project Isaiah," are taken every year to Gerdau Steel Mill in Rancho Cucamonga where they undergo the transformation, said Sheriff Lee Baca.

Remodeled as rebar, the former weapons will be used in upgrades to freeways and bridges in California, Arizona and Nevada.