SACRAMENTO — Democratic state lawmakers are sensing an opportunity to pass stricter gun and ammunition laws in California after New York approved the toughest gun-control law in the nation and President Barack Obama proposed the most sweeping attempt to control firearms in nearly two decades.
But the proposals in California, which range from regulating ammunition sales to increasing safety at schools, may not seem so pressing to Gov. Jerry Brown.
California has earned a reputation for being tough on guns. It currently bans the sale of assault rifles and magazines with more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school should serve as a catalyst for closing loopholes and limiting access to large numbers of bullets even more.
He expects the Democratic-controlled Legislature to strengthen gun control this year but not match New York's law.
"There are too many loopholes in California when it comes to our assault weapons ban," he said.
Steinberg said he will support proposals intended to make it more difficult to obtain devices that allow the rapid fire of dozens of rounds, and to require the reporting of ammunition purchases. He added the state should take more steps to get weapons out of the hands of felons, mentally ill people and others who cannot legally possess them.
"We're going to make this issue a priority — we have to," he told reporters in his Capitol office.
One person who remains surprisingly reluctant to chime in to the gun control debate is the Democratic governor. His stance could have implications for any new wave of gun- and ammunition-control proposals.
Brown was asked at a recent news conference if he would discuss gun-control proposals in the Legislature. His response: "No."
He said he would consider legislation sent his way but noted that California already has strict gun laws and made it clear that he has other priorities.
"I've got stuff on water, on high-speed rail, on weighted student formula. I mean, you name it, we got it," he said.
His office said the governor doesn't comment on bills until they reach his desk. When asked to comment on the president's proposal, Brown said he supports federal rules intended to supplement state laws.
Several California lawmakers responded to last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with calls for new laws aimed at increasing safety. Among them:
—Democratic Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco submitted a bill that would close loopholes in the state's ban on assault weapons. SB47 would prohibit the use of so-called bullet buttons and other devices that allow for swift reloading of military-style assault weapons.
—Yee also is carrying SB108, which would require all guns to be properly stored with a trigger lock or in a lock box when the owner is not present. Currently, the state only requires owners to have a trigger lock or safety lock box but doesn't require the safety device to be used.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here