COURSEY: Baby steps on gun control

A piece of gun-control legislation passed the California Senate this week without a single dissenting vote.

But don't let that fool you.

Senate Bill 140, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is a common-sense piece of clean-up legislation that allows $24 million in already collected firearm-purchase fees to be used to enforce a law prohibiting guns to be possessed by felons, violent criminals, domestic violence perpetrators and the mentally unstable.

Hard to argue against that, right? Well, no. Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, couldn't bring himself to vote for the bill. Though there are an estimated 20,000 Californians in those categories who illegally possess weapons right now, Nielsen abstained from the vote to go after them.

What's wrong with taking guns away from people whom the law prohibits from having them? Well, here's what the Firearms Policy Coalition, which promotes itself as "the future of Second Amendment rights advocacy," says about Leno's bill:

"Takes millions of unconstitutionally-collected Dealer Record of Sales (DROS) funds to compensate for the failure of more than 500 local law enforcement agencies not enforcing existing gun laws. Uses DROS funds to pay for (California Department of Justice) expansion, including raids and confiscation of weapons from those whom the State deems to be prohibited based on unreliable data from an untrustworthy list."

The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups also opposed the bill.

"This is not an easy decision for me," said Sen. Joel Anderson of La Mesa, one of eight Republicans who supported the bill and signed on as one of its co-authors.

Think about that. If it's hard for a legislator to support enforcing existing laws (California is the only state that actually takes guns away from people prohibited from owning them), how difficult will it be to pass new gun-control legislation?

We'll find out soon enough. Also this week, the U.S. Senate saw its first vote regarding gun legislation since the issue was moved to the front burner by the Newtown, Conn., school shootings in December. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to stiffen criminal penalties for people who legally buy firearms but then give them to someone else who uses them in a crime or who is legally prohibited from owning the gun.

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