California lawmakers consider range of gun controls

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers promised Tuesday to move cautiously as they consider tighter restrictions on handguns, assault rifles and ammunition purchases, proposals that would add to state regulations already among the toughest in the nation.

The chairmen of the Assembly and Senate public safety committees said during a joint legislative hearing that lawmakers will seek consensus as they look for ways to improve gun safety after recent mass shootings, particularly the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.

Proposed legislation includes taxing ammunition sales, outlawing possession of various weapons, and banning devises that allow rapid reloading.

"If there are legislative remedies, we want it to be effective and not divisive," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Assembly committee.

The hearing came after New York approved the nation's toughest gun controls earlier this month by tightening an existing ban on assault-style rifles and prohibiting large-capacity ammunition magazines, among other changes.

California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the hearing was designed to set aside some of the emotion and get to the facts on gun violence and what reasonably can be done to improve public safety.

Yet Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, chairwoman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, said that because of the recent mass shootings, "we reached a tipping point in the country" on the need for more firearm restrictions.

"In California, it brought back memories for us of 24 years ago at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton," she said.

Five children were killed and 30 wounded in 1989 at the school by Patrick Purdy in an attack that stands as a grim foreshadowing of other schoolyard shootings. Purdy fired more than 100 rounds from an AK-47-style assault rifle, leading California to adopt the nation's first limits on assault weapons.

Lawmakers watched a documentary on Tuesday about the Stockton shooting and heard testimony from former state Senate leaders who struggled to pass and tighten assault weapons restrictions in its wake.

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