Editorials

A California gun measure that’s too high-stakes to fail

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Proposition 63 would strengthen the state’s gun laws by restricting ammunition sales, barring possession of large-capacity assault-style magazines and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Proposition 63 would strengthen the state’s gun laws by restricting ammunition sales, barring possession of large-capacity assault-style magazines and requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns. Associated Press file

California has among the lowest firearm-related death rates in the nation, at least partly because of its efforts to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. Gun legislation here tends to be closely watched. That is why we recommend a yes vote on Proposition 63.

State lawmakers stole much of the thunder from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s gun and ammunition control initiative earlier this year, with their own gun control package. That’s fine; The Sacramento Bee editorial board generally believes policymaking should be done by legislators, not via the blunt instrument of the ballot.

But Proposition 63, just by putting gun control to a statewide vote, however modest the measure, offers a target for pro-gun groups that want to turn back the clock. Its defeat would reverberate nationally, emboldening opponents of gun control in Congress and other states. Californians who support gun safety should hold their ground by voting for Proposition 63.

Proposition 63 would fix a major flaw in Proposition 47, an initiative approved two years ago, by specifically stating that theft of a firearm is a felony. This dangerous loophole allows criminals who steal guns worth less than $950 to get away with only a misdemeanor charge.

Just by putting gun control to a statewide vote, however modest the measure, Proposition 63 offers a target for pro-gun groups that want to turn back the clock. Its defeat would reverberate nationally.

Newsom’s initiative also would require gun owners to inform law enforcement if their firearms are lost or stolen, and vendors to report lost or stolen ammunition. It would require judges to directly inform individuals convicted of crimes that they must turn over their weapons.

Legislation approved this year overlaps with Proposition 63’s most far-reaching provision – one that regulates ammunition sales by ensuring that only individuals who are legally entitled to own guns can buy bullets. Another bill signed into law bans possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, similar to a provision in the initiative.

Proposition 63’s opponents include some organizations that generally support gun control. The California Police Chiefs Association, for example, says the measure is overly rigid and “undoes many of the quality laws (police chiefs) helped enact.” The police chiefs carry weight on gun matters.

But gun-related violence remains, accounting for 70 percent of homicides in California and nationally, and more than half of all suicides, about 20,000 a year.

The National Rifle Association and similar organizations already make it too hard for Congress and other states to follow California’s lead by doing right by gun violence victims. Proposition 63’s defeat would give craven lawmakers another excuse to duck.

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