School massacre spurs California push for tighter gun controls

LOS ANGELES Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:14pm EST

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California lawmakers, seizing on new calls for gun controls following the massacre of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school, rolled out proposals on Tuesday to close loopholes in the state's assault weapons ban and restrict ammunition sales.

The moves quickly put California at the forefront of what was expected to be a new wave of proposed firearm restrictions at the state and federal levels in the wake of the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

State Senator Leland Yee introduced a bill that would prohibit gun owners from fitting semi-automatic weapons with devices, known as "bullet buttons" or "mag magnets," that allow them to be easily reloaded with multiple rounds of ammunition.

The San Francisco Democrat's proposed measure would also prohibit add-on kits that allow high capacity magazines. He said he was drafting legislation that would require yearly background checks for gun ownership and toughen safety requirements.

His move came as state Senator Kevin De Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said he would introduce a bill this week requiring ammunition buyers in the nation's most populous state to obtain a permit issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.

"For too long, too much ground has been ceded in the debate about reasonable gun and ammunition control," De Leon said in a statement released by his office. "In honor of the Sandy Hook Elementary School victims and thousands who have preceded them, we must not capitulate any longer."

A gunman carrying semi-automatic weapons opened fire on Friday at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 young students and six teachers in a crime that stunned many Americans and renewed calls for stricter gun controls.

De Leon said the one-year, $50 permit, which would require a background check by the Justice Department, was an effort to combat the easy accessibility of ammunition. A spokesman said he would likely introduce his proposed legislation later this week.

DEMOCRATS CONTROL CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE

Yee, who has called for reinstatement of a federal assault weapons ban, said his bill will require that all guns have a locked trigger and be stored in a lock box when not in use.

"While we cannot stop every senseless act of gun violence, surely we can strengthen our laws to limit such tragedies in the future," Yee said.

"These bills, as well as the ammunition bill authored by Senator Kevin De Leon and the school safety bill by Senator Ted Lieu, will help make our communities safer," he said.

Lieu, a Democrat, has said he would re-introduce a bill from the legislature's last term that would require schools to have established emergency response plans.

Democrats won a supermajority in both houses of California's legislature in November, giving them even greater clout in a body that they have long dominated. Governor Jerry Brown is also a Democrat.

Meanwhile, California Treasurer Bill Lockyer on Monday asked CalPERS and CalSTRS, the state's public pension funds, to account for their investments in gun manufacturers. Lockyer, a Democrat, proposed they divest interests in companies that make guns that are illegal under a state assault weapons ban.

CalSTRS, the California State Teachers' Retirement System, said it was reviewing its investment with Cerberus in the wake of the massacre in Newtown.

And in Washington, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said she would introduce federal legislation this week to outlaw the high-capacity magazines and military-style assault rifles that have been used in many recent shooting rampages, including the one in Newtown.

Police say 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, Nancy, at her home on Friday before shooting his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and opening fire on students and teachers. He shot himself to death following the rampage, authorities say.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Paul Simao)

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