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Calif. Lawmakers Tackle Guns With Bill Packet

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - A package of California gun-control bills seeking to restrict firearm purchases and regulate semi-automatic weapons passed their first committee vote Tuesday.

Three Democratic-sponsored proposals cleared the Assembly Public Safety Committee 5-2 on a party-line vote. The gun-control measures move next to an appropriations board where lawmakers will vote on the laws' fiscal impact.

Assembly Majority Leader Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, said his proposal to limit Californians to one gun purchase per month is necessary to stem large-scale gun purchases. Santiago specifically pointed to an April 2014 sale where one Californian bought 177 guns in a single transaction.

Santiago said the proposal, Assembly Bill 1674, is crucial to closing a loophole on long-gun purchases - rifles and shotguns - and slowing gun sales in California. California limited handgun purchases to one per month in 1999 but long-gun purchases are still unlimited.

"It's an incredible step toward making our streets safer," Santiago said in a press conference.

Another bill to prohibit gun manufacturers from selling weapons with a "bullet button" also passed the committee Tuesday. Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, said AB 1664 prevents the current practice of gun manufacturers exploiting state laws by creating ways for users to quickly detach magazines.

Levine said the "bullet button" enables shooters to skirt California's assault-weapon ban and that rifles equipped with the button were used in the San Bernardino mass shooting.

If passed, AB 1664 would amend the state's definition of assault weapons to include "bullet buttons" and require owners to register firearms equipped with the buttons by July 2018.

"Gun manufacturers have essentially made a mockery of our laws," Levine said.

The committee also advanced AB 1663, which too addresses guns manufactured with "bullet buttons." The proposal requires semi-automatic rifles sold in California to be built with magazines that can't be detached.

Several committee members criticized the proposal, since California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year.

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, said gun deaths have gone down due to California's strong gun laws and that it's apparent some lawmakers' ultimate goal is to "ban guns outright."

"The last time I checked the legal document called the Constitution says we have the right to own a firearm," Melendez said. "I don't think it's going to come as any surprise that I'm not going to be able to support this bill this morning."

Melendez and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, voted against all four gun control proposals Tuesday while scolding the authors for attempting to "tinker" with the definition of assault weapons. By the end of the meeting, Melendez, the committee vice chair, said she was "getting tired" of hearing the proposals.

A representative from the National Rifle Association testified against the bill, stating that the bills turn millions of Californians who own rifles into criminals. The California State Sheriffs Association and the California Waterfowl Association opposed the measures as well.

The authors said the bills were inspired by the San Bernardino attack in December. According to a recent Field Poll, 57 percent of respondents feel it's more important to impose greater controls on gun ownership than it is to protect the right to own guns in the wake of the attack that killed 14 people and left 22 others seriously injured.

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