Politics

California Senate backs strict gun restrictions

File: Guns are piled on the ground during the destruction of approximately 3,400 guns and other weapons at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs'• 22nd annual gun melt at Gerdau Steel Mill on July 6, 2015 in Rancho Cucamonga.
File: Guns are piled on the ground during the destruction of approximately 3,400 guns and other weapons at the Los Angeles County Sheriffs'• 22nd annual gun melt at Gerdau Steel Mill on July 6, 2015 in Rancho Cucamonga.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Updated 12:15 p.m.: California Senate backs strict gun restrictions

The California Senate has approved a wide-ranging series of gun-control measures that would outlaw assault rifles with easily detachable magazines and require people to give up magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

The 11 measures approved Thursday would significantly tighten California's gun laws, which are already among the strictest in the nation.

The debate comes as Democratic leaders rush to head off a gun-control ballot measure advocated by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. They say the Legislature can more effectively craft gun legislation, and some Democrats also worry the initiative would motivate gun-rights supporters in the November election.

Lawmakers sent the package of legislation to the state Assembly.

10:44 a.m.: California Senate to vote on sweeping gun-control measures 

Democrats in the California Senate plan another attempt to outlaw the sale of assault weapons with easily detachable ammunition magazines known as bullet buttons as part of a wide-ranging slate of gun control bills scheduled for votes on Thursday.

Nearly a dozen measures would significantly reshape California's gun laws, already among the strictest in the nation, following last year's terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The debate comes as Democratic legislative leaders rush to head off a ballot measure advocated by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, which would ask voters to enact many of the same policies the Legislature is now set to debate.

Under California's assault-weapon ban, most rifles must require a tool to detach the magazine. Gun makers developed so called bullet buttons that allow a shooter to quickly dislodge the ammunition cartridge using the tip of a bullet or other small tool.

Outlawing bullet buttons 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.

The debate has fallen along familiar lines, with Democrats advocating a crackdown on guns in the name of safety and Republicans complaining that gun laws only hinder people intent on following the law.

"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."

Limiting access to firearms and ammunition is dangerous at a time when the Legislature and voters are easing some of the strict sentencing laws from the 1980s and '90s, said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.

"We're going easy on the real dangerous people. Now with these bills we're criminalizing the law-abiding people," Nielsen said.

Aside from the bullet button ban, senators plan to consider 10 other gun control bills. 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. Some Democrats worry the initiative will fire up gun rights supporters, potentially increasing turnout of conservative voters.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, wrote to Newsom last month asking him to hold off on his initiative and allow lawmakers to tackle the problem. He declined.

Jeremy White, reporter in the Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Bureau, joined AirTalk to discuss the legislation. Click the blue play button at the top of the page to listen.