California Senate Passes Gun Control Package

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SACRAMENTO -- The California Senate passed a package of gun control measures meant to replace a ballot initiative that covers the same issues.

The bills include measures that require background checks to buy ammunition, outlaw existing ammo magazines that carry more than 10 rounds, increase penalties for stealing guns, set time limits for reporting a stolen gun, restrict the loan of guns to certain family members, outlaw quick release mechanisms for changing magazines on certain long guns, and require serial numbers on guns built from unidentified parts.

"These proposals take common sense steps to keep weapons and ammunition out of the hands of criminals," said Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon during the debate on the bills.

But opponents said none of the measures keep criminals from getting ammo or guns because they don't go through legal channels. Instead law-abiding gun owners suffer.

"Criminals will not be affected, they laugh at this," said Senator Jim Nielsen.

The bills passed by a comfortable margin. There is some urgency in passing the set of bills because lawmakers now are allowed to present alternatives to ballot measures, allowing their authors to abandon their efforts.

A gun control measure backed by a coalition of groups led by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to be placed on the November ballot, which includes some of the same provisions.

But Newsom has said he will not back off his ballot measure even if the bills are passed. Newsom has said that there is no guarantee that the governor will sign them and there are some provisions that are in his measure that can't be addressed by the legislature.

The Assembly must also approve the gun control package. The author of several of the bills, Sacramento Assembly member Jim Cooper, a former sheriff's captain, said the bills are a better way to go than an initiative.

"Once that initiative is done, it's locked in. You have no wiggle room, no way to change things if it's not working," Cooper said.

De Leon hopes to get the bills to the governor in the next week or two, but there is no guarantee that the governor will sign all of the bills.