Editorial: Governor should protect public safety by signing gun bills into law

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am

The 2013 legislative session began a few days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It ended shortly before the shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

In between, there were more than 800 gun-related deaths in California, and many times that number nationwide.

Congress has proven itself unable to approve even the most modest gun safety legislation. But California legislators passed several sensible measures. Gov. Jerry Brown should sign them into law.

At the top of the list is Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s Senate Bill 374, which seeks to ban future sales of semi-automatic rifles that can accept detachable magazines.

California led the nation in 1989 when Gov. George Deukmejian, a Republican, signed a bill banning assault weapons after the Cleveland Elementary School shooting in Stockton.

Ever since, gun manufacturers have found ways to evade the restrictions, and lawmakers have responded by trying to tighten the law. Steinberg’s bill would end the argument by banning future sales in California of semi-automatic guns that can accept detachable clips, which can be emptied and rapidly replaced.

As was hammered home Monday by the shooting in Washington that killed 12 people, not including the shooter, a deranged gunman can quickly do horrendous damage.

Sen. Lois Wolk’s SB 755 is a more narrow but significant measure intended to help keep all firearms out of the hands of people who have shown through their actions that they are not responsible enough to own them.

The Davis Democrat’s bill would expand the list of people who are prohibited from owning firearms to include individuals who have repeat alcohol-related arrests, including driving under the influence. People who are directed by a judge to undergo intensive treatment for mental illness also would lose gun ownership rights for a period of time.

Other gun safety measures deserving of Brown’s signature include SB 683 by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, which would require all gun purchasers to show they know how to safely handle firearms, and SB 299 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, seeking to require owners to report lost or stolen guns within seven days.

AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, would allow Oakland to impose gun control measures that are tougher than those adopted by the state. That city’s crime statistics reflect the urgency of the measure. There have been 2,095 robberies with use of a firearm in Oakland so far this year, compared with 865 in 2010.

No law can stop all gun violence. California lawmakers cannot limit gun sales in other states. But Brown has it within his power to take reasonable steps to enhance public safety. He shouldn’t let the opportunity pass.

Read more articles by the Editorial Board



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