SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Democrats in the California Senate plan another attempt to outlaw the sale of assault weapons with easily detachable ammunition magazines known as bullet buttons as part of a wide-ranging slate of gun control bills scheduled for votes on Thursday.
Nearly a dozen measures would significantly reshape California’s gun laws, already among the strictest in the nation, following last year’s terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The debate comes as Democratic legislative leaders rush to head off a ballot measure advocated by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, which would ask voters to enact many of the same policies the Legislature is now set to debate.
Under California’s assault-weapon ban, most rifles must require a tool to detach the magazine. Gun makers developed so called bullet buttons that allow a shooter to quickly dislodge the ammunition cartridge using the tip of a bullet or other small tool.
Outlawing bullet buttons is a priority for gun control advocates, who hope that making it harder to reload would limit the carnage a mass shooter can inflict. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 vetoed the Legislature’s last attempt to ban bullet buttons, saying it was too far-reaching.
The debate has fallen along familiar lines, with Democrats advocating a crackdown on guns in the name of safety and Republicans complaining that gun laws only hinder people intent on following the law.
“We raise our children in communities, not war zones,” said Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael. “Military assault weapons have no place on our streets and gun violence must not be tolerated.”
Limiting access to firearms and ammunition is dangerous at a time when the Legislature and voters are easing some of the strict sentencing laws from the 1980s and ’90s, said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.
“We’re going easy on the real dangerous people. Now with these bills we’re criminalizing the law-abiding people,” Nielsen said.
Aside from the bullet button ban, senators plan to consider 10 other gun control bills. They include regulations for homemade firearms, background checks for ammunition purchases, a ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds, a mandate to report lost or stolen guns, a ban on loaning firearms to friends, and funding for a gun-violence research center.
The debate in the Senate comes as Newsom, a Democrat running for governor in 2018, is advocating a November gun control ballot measure. Some Democrats worry the initiative will fire up gun rights supporters, potentially increasing turnout of conservative voters.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, wrote to Newsom last month asking him to hold off on his initiative and allow lawmakers to tackle the problem. He declined.
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