Skinner brings back bill to control ammo sales

A Bay Area lawmaker is re-introducing a bill that would tighten up on ammunition sales, which aren’t tracked by current law.

“In California, it’s harder to get some cold medicines than ammunition,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release, referring to the state’s law restricting sales of pseudoephedrine, which can be used as a precursor for making methamphetamine. “Something has to change.”

Skinner this past summer authored AB 2512, which would have required large ammunition purchases to be reported to local law enforcement. The bill was inspired by July’s shooting rampage at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

Her bill also sought to close a loophole in the assault weapons law allowing individuals to have high-capacity magazines, like those found on the man who killed 26 people last Friday in Newtown, Conn. But the legislation, introduced by gutting and amending an already-existing bill, came too late in the year to have any hearings before the session ended.

Her new bill would require all ammunition purchasers to show their IDs; require all ammunition sales to be reported to the state Department of Justice; require all ammunition sellers to be licensed and undergo a background check; and
ban kits to convert ammunition clips into high-capacity magazines.

Skinner had told me last week – two days before the Newtown massacre – that she had been meeting with law enforcement and other stakeholders to develop a revised version of the bill.

“Among the most shocking details from the shooting massacre in Colorado is the undetected stockpiling of ammunition and weapons by the alleged shooter. In Newtown, the shooter had hundreds of unspent rounds. While incidents like Aurora and Newtown may be rare, we can’t let ammunition stockpiling go unnoticed,” Skinner said today. “Gun violence is an ongoing, yet unnecessary threat in communities throughout California. As lawmakers, we need to do everything we can to stop this trend.”


Bay Area Senators revive DISCLOSE Act

Two Bay Area state Senators announced Thursday the re-introduction of a bill requiring that the top three funders of political ads be clearly identified, both on the ads themselves and on the campaign’s website.

SB 52, the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act, by state Senators Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Jerry Hill, D-Palo Alto, is sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign. It applies to advertising for ballot measure campaigns, independent expenditures and issue advocacy. The bill introduced today is intent language, to which details will be added early next year before it’s heard in policy committees.

“We saw evidence in the most recent election cycle of unnamed organizations throwing around large sums of money in order to confuse California voters,” Leno said in a news release. “The only way to stop this covert financing of campaigns is to require the simple and clear disclosure of the top three funders of political ads so voters can make well-informed decisions at the ballot box.”

Hill said the bill is “vital to protecting the integrity of our democratic process and ensuring fair elections in our state. After seeing billions of dollars flow into elections across our country after the Citizens United decision, we need the DISCLOSE Act now more than ever.”

California Clean Money Campaign president Trent Lange said more than 350 groups and individuals signed on to support the last version of this bill and more than 84,000 Californians signed petitions for it, “demonstrating the rising outcry to stop Big Money special interests from deceiving voters when they fund political ads.”

Actually, this effort has had several iterations recently. AB 1148 last January got 52 Assembly votes, falling short of the two-thirds supermajority it needed to pass. And AB 1648 was passed by the Assembly in August after being amended to require only a simply majority vote, but was stuck in a state Senate committee at the end of the last session. Both of those bills were authored by then-Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, now congresswoman-elect for the 26th House District.


Boxer pitches grants, Guardsmen for safer schools

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer today introduced two new bills that she said will strengthen safety at schools by giving state and local officials new resources and tools to help them secure their campuses and protect students.

Barbara Boxer“When our children and our grandchildren are at school, we must have faith that they are safe,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release. “This legislation will help state and local officials protect our children by utilizing all of the law enforcement tools at our disposal.”

One bill – the School Safety Enhancements Act – would strengthen and expand the Justice Department’s existing COPS Secure Our Schools grants program to provide schools with more resources to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, secured entrances and other important safety measures.

The program currently requires a 50 percent local match, but Boxer’s bill would let the Justice Department reduce the local share to 20 percent for schools with limited resources. The bill also creates a joint task force between the Justice Department and the Department of Education to develop new school safety guidelines, and would increase the Secure Our Schools authorization from $30 million to $50 million.

Boxer’s second bill – the Save Our Schools (SOS) Act – would let the federal government reimburse governors who want to use National Guard troops to help ensure that our nation’s schools are safe.

It’s modeled after a successful National Guard program – in place since 1989 – that lets governors use Guardsmen to assist with law enforcement efforts related to drug interdiction activities. Under the new program, Guard troops could help support local law enforcement agencies to ensure schools are safe. The National Guard has said it is “particularly well suited for domestic law enforcement support missions” because it is “located in over 3,000 local communities throughout the nation, readily accessible, routinely exercised with local first responders, and experienced in supporting neighboring communities.”

Boxer said bills like this are only part of a comprehensive response to Friday’s massacre at a Connecticut elementary school; she also wants new gun control laws, including bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as controls to ensure that the mentally ill can’t buy guns.


Thompson to lead House Dems’ gun control effort

Rep. Mike Thompson will be House Democrats’ point man seeking new steps Congress can take to reduce gun violence and prevent massacres like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Wednesday morning.

“As we mourn the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, we must respond with more than words; we must take action. We must be able to tell our children that we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again,” Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “I am pleased to appoint Congressman Thompson to lead our task force to reduce and prevent gun violence. He is a Vietnam veteran and an avid hunter, and he is ideally suited to lead this effort, working with the Administration and in a bipartisan way, to ban assault weapons and assault magazines.”

Mike ThompsonThompson, D-Napa, said that as a father and grandfather, he’s “deeply shocked and saddened by the senseless act of violence we’re mourning in Newtown,” and he’s honored to chair an effort seeking ways to reduce and prevent such things.

“I am a gun owner, hunter, former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus, supporter of the second Amendment and a combat veteran who carried an assault rifle in Vietnam,” Thompson said. “I understand guns, their purpose and how they are used. Military-type assault weapons and assault magazines have no place on our streets or in our communities. We also need to consider instituting more detailed background checks and making sure appropriate mental health services are available. As chair of this task force I will be working on these issues as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence and strengthen our nation’s gun laws while protecting law abiding citizens’ right to own legitimate firearms.”

UPDATE @ 9 A.M.: Here’s how Thompson answered the four questions we put to all California House members for today’s front-page story:

Do you support re-enacting the federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004? Why/why not?
“Yes. I am a gun owner, hunter, former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman Caucus, supporter of the second Amendment and a combat veteran who carried an assault rifle in Vietnam. I understand guns, their purpose and how they are used. There is absolutely no reason why people should have access to military-type assault weapons or assault magazines. They serve no sporting purpose, they aid criminals, and they open the door to mass shootings like the one we’re mourning in Newtown.”

Do you believe citizens have an inalienable right to own weapons like the Bushmaster .223 rifle, along with multiple 30-round magazines, used in Newtown?
“No. I believe law-abiding, responsible Americans have the right to own legitimate firearms for legitimate purposes. But the second amendment was not written with the purpose of providing everyone with the inalienable right to sell or own military-type assault rifles and assault magazines.”

Should the right to own firearms be predicated upon a background check, including mental health, of others residing in that home?
“Yes. We need a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence. Conducting background checks and getting mental health information are an important part of an all-the-above approach to preventing gun violence.”

Would you support a federal law requiring user education, user licensing and registration of all firearms, much as we already require with cars?
“I support a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence that includes detailed background checks, meaningful mental health improvements, strict firearm registration rules, assault weapon bans and assault clip bans.”


State took 2,000 guns from illegal owners in 2012

California may have a sizeable leg up on other states in taking guns away from mentally ill people who are barred by law from owning them.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris said Tuesday that more than 2,000 firearms were seized in 2012 from people in California who were legally barred from possessing them, including mentally unstable people and those with active restraining orders. She noted the state has clear laws determining who can and can’t possess firearms based on their threat to public safety.

“Enforcing those laws is crucial because we have seen the terrible tragedies that occur when guns are in the wrong hands,” she said, referring to a mentally ill gunman’s spree Friday at a Connecticut elementary school that claimed 26 lives, including 20 children.

Harris said 33 state Department of Justice agents used its Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) database to identify convicted felons, people with active restraining orders, people determined to be mentally unstable and others barred from owning guns. Agents seized 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition, and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, with most of the firearms seized during two six-week sweeps.

The first statewide sweep targeted people barred from gun ownership because of mental health issues, and the second focused on people with legally registered assault weapons who were later prohibited from owning them.

Harris last year sponsored SB 819, carried by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to increase funding for the APPS program through the use of existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers; the new law took effect at the start of this year.

The APPS database cross-references people who legally bought handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. APPS was launched in November 2006, and the first statewide sweep was conducted in 2007. California is the nation’s first and only state to have created such a database.


Emken finishes with no debt, DiFi with big victory

Elizabeth Emken, the unsuccessful Republican challenger to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in last month’s election, announced today that she finished her campaign without any debt.

Emken, of Danville, said her final financial report shows her campaign raised $1,112,077.53, with more than 10,000 donors contributing $100 or less. Final Secretary of State records show Emken receiving 4,713,887 votes, which means her campaign spent less than 24 cents per vote.

“It was my goal to finish the campaign strong and I’m proud of the hard work we did to model the same fiscal accountability that I promised to bring to Washington,” Emken said in a news release. “We maximized the vote with minimal resources, and made the most of our donors’ contributions.”

A Republican slate mailer company had sued her for breach of contract in October, claiming she still owed $65,000 yet had used campaign funds to repay a $200,000 personal loan she made to her campaign in the spring. Her spokesman today said the matter has been “settled to everyone’s satisfaction.”

And here’s the perfect place to say: I goofed.

I wrote a blog post right after the election positing that Emken had outperformed other, past challengers to Feinstein. But in my bleary state that day, I failed to account for the fact that past elections had third-party candidates and – due to our new top-two primary system – this year’s had only Feinstein and Emken.

In fact, Feinstein beat Emken this year by the largest victory margin she has ever had: 25 percentage points. Feinstein had beat Dick Mountjoy in 2006 by 24.4 points; Tom Campbell in 2000 by 19.3 points; Michael Huffington in 1994 by 1.9 points; and John Seymour in 1992 by 16.3 points.