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California lawmakers work to further thwart gun violence

by Take Two

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A San Francisco police officer documents a gun that is being surrendered during a gun buy back program on December 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The San Francisco police department held a one-day gun buy back event that paid $200 per gun turned in. A better than expected crowd resulted in payback money running out and vouchers were issued to collect money within a week. Over 200 guns were collected. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California already has some of the nation's toughest gun laws. KPCC's Julie Small says state lawmakers are moving forward with plans of their own to further thwart gun violence. 

Shortly after the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, California lawmakers introduced a slew of bills they say will deter gun violence. 
State Senator Kevin De Leon’s (D-LA) bill would require people to get a license to purchase ammunition.
“We require a license if you in fact you want to hunt, we require a license if you want to fish, however anyone can walk into any gun store in California and purchase all the ammunition they like—no questions asked.” Says De Leon. 

Under De Leon’s Senate Bill-48,  California’s Department of Justice would issue the license to purchase ammunition and buyers would have to renew every year.

“We have some pretty restrictive gun laws on the books in California—I think they’re an example for the nation, however, we never look at the fuel that actually feeds the  violence which is the ammunition.” 
Senator Leland Yee’s (D-SF) Senate Bill 47 would ban the use of so called “bullet buttons”  and other devices that allow for quick reloading of military-style assault weapons.  An earlier version of the bill stalled in committee last year.
Senator Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) plans to introduce legislation this weekend to impose a lifetime ban on gun ownership for anyone a court has deemed dangerous because of a mental disorder or illness—even if they’ve been treated.

“I hope everyone with any mental illness gets the treatment and rehabilitation they need to live a healthy and productive life.” Gaines said in a written statement.  “But if the court has ruled you are a danger to others, that’s it.  That is your one strike.  We are not going to pave the way for you to own a firearm ever again.”
Not all the efforts to thwart violence are focused on restricting access to guns and ammunition. Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) has re-introduced legislation currently Senate Bill-49 to compel schools to prepare for the unimaginable:

“Maybe someone knows—let’s say there’s an active shooter on school campus-- that they should lock their door…but maybe they don’t think ‘oh maybe we should barricade it as well and maybe stick a file cabinet behind it.’” Lieu says there are just things that a person may not think about during an emergency situation when their adrenaline is pumping. “So I think it’s important to have a school safety plan so that people have some sort of training before such a catastrophe happens.”

California requires schools to prepare and update emergency plans. But Lieu says no government entity enforces the law.

“No one tracks them!” he says.  “So if you were to ask the question today, which schools have school safety plans statewide and which do not—no one has that answer.”

Lieu says he’s still waiting to learn whether the public school his two young sons attend has such a plan. 

Lieu's bill would empower the state to withhold funds from school districts that fail to ensure emergency plans are up to date. He first tried to pass the measure in 2011—after nine LA-area schools were put on lockdown. Lieu says it became clear that some schools were grossly unprepared.   But school districts defeated the effort. Lieu thinks the tragedy at Sandy Hook will change their minds.
Democrats—who support gun control—hold a supermajority in both houses. That makes passage of gun control laws more likely over the next couple of years.

Democratic Governor Brown—who last year signed a ban on openly carrying unloaded handguns in public--has shown he’s willing to tighten state gun control laws.   

“I’ve signed some bills last year.” Brown said at recent press conference.   “California has the strongest gun laws in the country, I’ll be glad to look at other ones.”   

Brown declined to comment on whether he’d sign any of the gun measures making their way through the legislature-- but he didn’t rule it out.

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