California Democrats Look to Beef Up Gun-Control Laws

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – With Democratic supermajorities in both chambers and a new governor promising to “raise the bar” on gun control, California lawmakers said Monday the conditions are right for stricter state gun laws.

(AP file photo/Alan Diaz)

A collection of state Assembly members and state senators have created a “working group” with a goal of making California a model for other states to follow on gun control and violence prevention laws. Their current proposals include monthly limits on gun purchases, new taxes on gun sales and ownership bans for people convicted of certain alcohol-related crimes.

The legislators – all Democrats – hope to be “drum majors for gun control” and said that finding ways to prevent mass shootings will be a top priority for the Legislature in 2019. The group blasted Congress, which is expected to hold its first hearing on gun violence in almost a decade this week, and said California can’t wait for the federal government on gun control.

“Washington, D.C. has failed us,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, D-San Fernando Valley. “Thoughts and prayers from Washington won’t keep our kids safe, what we need are common-sense gun laws that will protect our schools, families and our communities.”

The group held a roundtable discussion with former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Sacramento on Monday. Giffords nearly died in a mass shooting near Tucson in January 2011 and has since pushed Congress and other states to implement stricter gun-control laws through her organization, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence.

At a press conference, Giffords implored the state lawmakers to be bold in stopping gun violence and create a path for other states to follow. 

“We must never stop fighting; fight, fight, fight. Be bold, be courageous, the nation’s counting on you,” Giffords said, flanked by the California Democrats.

Giffords’ appearance at the state Capitol comes as the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a gun violence hearing on Wednesday where it will hear from survivors of mass shootings as well as first responders and doctors.  The House is also expected to vote at some point on HR 8, which is being called the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-San Fernando Valley, said gun control and gun violence deserve the full attention of the Legislature and took a jab at the president.

“There are many others on the national level that just don’t get it that America and Americans want to send their children off to school and not have to debate the purchase of a bulletproof backpack,” Portantino said. “We must send a message to the Republican-controlled Senate and the gun-panderer-in chief, if you will not act California will lead the nation on this issue.”

The Democrats’ various gun-related bills are eligible for committee hearings beginning later this month. Some of the notable proposals include:

Assembly Bill 18 involves new sales and use tax on handgun and semiautomatic rifle purchases, with revenue going toward violence-prevention programs. The amount of the new excise tax has not been announced.

Senate Bill 61 would bar Californians from buying more than one gun in a 30-day stretch.  Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar proposal in both 2017 and 2016.

Senate Bill 55 would add certain crimes involving alcohol to the list of violations that result in a 10-year restriction on possession and ownership of guns, including multiple DUI convictions and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. 

Assembly Bill 165 would require training for law enforcement officers on the use of gun violence restraining orders. Critics say law enforcement groups have underutilized the restraining orders since they were introduced in 2016. The bill is sponsored by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

The working group says it will conduct more roundtables and that additional gun-control legislation is in the works. It believes it has an ally in new Gov. Gavin Newsom, who pushed a sweeping gun-control initiative that voters passed in 2016.

“We are committed as a group to thinking about how we can bring an aggressive legislative package forward,” said Assemblyman Gabriel. “We’re going to bring them to our bold and courageous new governor.”

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