Governor Brown’s Decisions on Gun Control Laws

On October 11, California Governor Jerry Brown signed eleven gun control bills, while vetoing seven others. His veto of SB 374, which would have banned all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, was met with support from the National Rifle Association, which had threatened to file a lawsuit if the bill became law. Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who authored SB 374, argued in a statement released after the vetoes that “aggressive action is precisely what’s needed to reduce the carnage in our communities, and to counter the equally aggressive action by the gun industry.”

The gun control bills passed by the legislature were a reaction to the December 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and 6 adults were killed. Brown, however, argued that California already has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Brown said he did not “believe that [SB 374’s] blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights.”

The bills that Brown vetoed would have required gun owners to report the theft or loss of a gun within seven days, changed the definition of an “illegal” shotgun, expanded the list of convicts for whom it is illegal to purchase guns, and would have given communities more freedom to tighten gun restrictions. In all, Brown axed seven of the eighteen bills on his desk. The NRA had called for eleven vetoes.

One of the bills that Brown signed into law, AB 117, bans the use of lead ammunition in hunting by 2019. His signature was met with criticism from the NRA and hunting advocacy groups, while conservationists and environmentalists hailed his action. Brown stated that AB 117 fits with California’s long history of conservation. Other bills signed by Brown tighten restrictions on the storage of weapons, making it a crime to allow children to gain access to them (AB 231); ban high-capacity magazine conversion kits (AB 48); require owners of long guns to receive safety certificates (SB 683); and extend the prohibitory period from six months to five years for a person who has described a serious threat of physical violence against a reasonably identifiable victim(s) (AB 1131).

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