California mayors, Senate Democrats push gun control measures

02/08/2013 12:00 AM

03/03/2013 3:47 PM

Flanked by police chiefs, big-city mayors and gun control advocates, a group of California Democratic legislators announced a series of proposals that Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said would "once again make California's gun laws the very toughest in the nation."

Thursday's announcement was the latest gun control push from state lawmakers in the wake of December's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. The massacre, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, has sparked calls for action across the country. Lawmakers in New York recently enacted measures making its laws the nation's strictest, a title previously held by California.

"We need to lead the way," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "New York has stepped up and stepped forward. California needs to answer the call."

The package of seven bills outlined at a Capitol press conference includes measures to make it illegal to possess high-capacity magazines, ban the manufacture, sale, transfer and importation of rifles with detachable magazines, regulate ammunition purchases and require additional safety training for people who purchase new handguns.

Lawmakers also called for increased funding and a focus on enforcing existing laws, including ensuring that guns get out of the hands of people prohibited from possessing firearms.

Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee, called the measures "common-sense steps" to address the country's gun violence.

"We can do things, take sensible steps to cut back on that, and we will," she said.

Gun advocates were quick to criticize the proposals. Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said the measures described Thursday would have "zero impact" on gun violence. He said lawmakers should put a greater focus on funding the courts and law enforcement instead of targeting weapons that are purchased legally and used by many for self defense.

"We have a criminal and a system problem, we don't have a gun problem in this state," he said. "As long as legislators concentrate on gun control, we will continue to have mass shootings and the legislators will have blood on their hands."

Steinberg downplayed assertions that new gun regulations won't put an end to violence, saying leaders can "save many lives by curbing the proliferation of rapid-fire weapons."

"We can save lives by getting guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. We can save lives if every gun owner shows that he or she knows how to safely handle and store firearms and regulate the sale of ammunition," he said. "And if we can save lives, we must act to do so."

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