December 18, 2012 / 8:50 PM / 5 years ago

School massacre spurs California push for tighter gun control

LOS ANGELES, Dec 18 (Reuters) - California lawmakers, spurred to action by the massacre of 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school last week, are opening a campaign for stricter gun control in the state with plans for legislation to make it tougher to get ammunition.

California state Senator Kevin De Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, said on Tuesday he would introduce a bill requiring buyers of ammunition in the nation’s most populous state to obtain a permit issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.

His move came as another California Democrat said he would move to strengthen state gun laws, and after California’s treasurer proposed that state public pension funds sell their interest in any company that makes guns that are illegal under California’s assault weapons ban.

“For too long, too much ground has been ceded in the debate about reasonable gun and ammunition control,” De Leon said in a statement. “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.

Adding to the push, California state Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat, on Tuesday introduced legislation that he said was intended to close loopholes in the state’s assault weapons ban.


Yee has called for reinstatement of a federal assault weapons ban and said he was examining several proposals including increased background checks, mental health evaluations, limits on ammunition, and additional safe storage requirements.

“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.

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

“The Treasurer’s view is that neither fund should be invested in any company that makes guns that are illegal in this state, especially ones that were used to kill 20 innocent children and six innocent adults,” Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said.

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

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 in the school following the rampage, authorities say.

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