Yee’s SB 249 ‘bullet button’ ban looks dead

A bill to close what the author says is a loophole in California’s assault weapons law appears dead for this legislative session after a key committee decided to hold it.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee was to have heard SB 249 by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, on Thursday. This Friday, Aug. 17, is the deadline for fiscal committees to meet and report bills to the floor; Friday, Aug. 31 will be the deadline for each house to pass bills, after which the Legislature will recess.

“I am deeply disappointed that the bill is being held by the Appropriations Committee,” Yee said in a news release. “My greatest fear is that another senseless act of violence will happen before the loophole is closed. Despite the gun lobby’s efforts to derail common sense legislation, I will not give up this fight.”

California already has the nation’s strictest assault-weapons law, but Yee offered this bill in May to tighten it a bit further.

The state already bans ammunition magazines that can be removed from a gun simply by pressing a button, when used on guns with features such as a pistol grip or telescoping stock; the intent is to slow reloading of such weapons. But gun makers created new mechanisms so magazines can be removed in seconds using the tip of a bullet, or in some cases, by placing a small magnet over a “bullet button.”

Yee’s bill initially sought to ban this, but he had watered it down as other lawmakers balked at taking on the gun lobby. After the Colorado movie-theater shooting, however, Yee saw resurgent interest in the bill; he announced last week that he was re-amending it to its original goal, with a new endorsement from state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

“When California enacted our assault weapon law there was no intention of allowing such easily changeable magazines on military style weapons,” Yee said today. “It is imperative that we close this loophole as soon as possible, either through legislation or new regulations at the Department of Justice.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Jim Griffiths

    Lee and his chief of staff Keigwin are just another couple of political clowns. There has been no documented crime committed with a rifle utilizing a bullet button (let alone a mass-shooting atrocity). This is just a dying political gasp by an insignificant politician who is terming out of office.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Leave it to the creative genius of the next star psycho to kill a bunch of folks without an assault rifle. A bomb, poisonous substance, a speeding car, etc.

  • JohnW

    Seems to me we have two different types of gun violence. First, we have the headline tragedies — Aurora, Milwaukee, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood etc. These are tragic but fairly rare. For these, mental health and intervention are as important as gun control.

    Second, we have the street killings that happen daily in places like Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco etc. The tragedy of these is not just the victims (some innocent, some not) but also what it does to the community. Kids not being able to play outside. Some sleeping in bathtubs instead of beds. Unsafe schools. It must be hell trying to grow up in that environment. Every gun used in those crimes started as a legal gun sale somewhere and then found itself in the black market. We need to deal aggressively with that.

  • Elwood

    “We need to deal aggressively with that.”

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you John, but how would you propose that we do that?

  • JohnW

    I don’t know, but here are some thoughts I’ve toyed with:

    First, it may surprise you that I favor “stop and frisk” with some ground rules to prevent abuse.

    Every bullet signaturized for tracing purposes. Heavy excise tax on ammo. I checked to see how much it cost the shooter in Aurora to buy 6,000 rounds of high caliber ammo online. I assumed a dollar or so per projectile. It was more like 35 cents.

    Every firearm registered. Every change of possession (store to person, or person to person) immediately goes into a computer data base system, with photo ID’s of buyer and seller. Similar to the FBI national crime data base. Include ability to identify individuals involved in high frequency transactions and the guns associated with those transactions. This is all for purposes of tracing a gun’s ownership history when used in a crime, not so Obama can sent stormtroopers to confiscate guns.

    When a crime is committed with a gun, civil liability rests with the most recent legal owner (unless the gun was previously reported stolen). So, if a gun is legally purchased in Georgia and then goes through a series of unregistered transactions and finds its way into an armed robbery in Richmond, whoever made the original legally documented purchase back in Georgia gets to lose his shirt in a lawsuit and also be subject to criminal charges for an undocumented transfer.

    Tightened rules on gun show sales and high frequency or multiple-gun transactions.

  • Elwood

    Snowball, hell, etc.

  • RR senile columnist

    I am deeply disappointed too- that a useless throwback to the ’60s like Yee is still in office.

  • For Liberty

    @ 5:

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

    Not my words, but that of Benjamin Franklin.

    And you need to come up with something better than, “Times (Franklin’s time) were different back then.”