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Jackie Speier offers ‘Child Handgun Safety Act’

A Bay Area congresswoman’s new gun-control bill would require that all handguns have child-safety mechanisms built in.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said her Child Handgun Safety Act is inspired by a series of tragedies nationwide – most recently, a 5-year-old girl in New Orleans accidentally shot and killed herself with a .38-caliber revolver this past weekend.

Jackie Speier“A majority of gun deaths involving children are preventable at the point of manufacturing,” Speier said in her news release. “More than half of child deaths from guns result from accidents or failure to secure guns in the home. In the past, we have taken similar safety measures with products such as butane lighters and prescription drug bottles. It’s inexcusable we haven’t done the same with deadly weapons. We have an urgent responsibility to prevent these tragic deaths through smart, more effective handgun policies.”

The bill would require that all handguns made, sold in, or imported into the United States incorporate technology that prevents the average 5-year-old child from operating it when it’s ready to fire. It also would require that as of two years after enactment, any handgun sold, offered for sale, traded, transferred, shipped, leased, or distributed in the U.S. be child-resistant or retrofitted with a child-resistant mechanism.

Speier said that since December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., 73 more children aged 12 and under have been killed with guns. Of those, 40 were due to accidental shootings, 29 of which involved a teen or child aged 17 or younger pulling the trigger. Among the specific examples Speier cited:

    Corsicana, Texas: A toddler died after a self-inflicted shooting with a handgun inside a bedroom in his home, striking himself in the head.
    Tampa, Fla.: A 3-year-old boy who found a gun in his uncle’s backpack shot himself and died.
    Greenville County, S.C.: A 2-year-old child reached into his father’s pocket, grabbed a gun and shot himself at his grandparents’ home.
    Brighton, Ala.: A 4-year-old shot a 4-year-old cousin with .38 Special pistol left on a bed.
    Lebanon, Tenn.: A 4-year-old boy shot the wife of a sheriff with a pistol.
    Liberty, Mich.: The 3-year old son of a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy accidentally shot and killed himself with his father’s weapon.

Lawrence Keane – senior vice president and general counsel of the Newtown, Conn.-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun-industry trade group – said he doesn’t doubt Speier’s intentions are good, but “there is no reason or need for the legislation she has introduced.”

“Every firearm sold in the United States today … is required to be provided with a locking device,” Keane said. “It’s the responsibility of the gun owner to secure the firearm and keep it away from unauthorized users, particularly and obviously children.”

Not only do U.S. gunmakers include a lock with every firearm they ship, but retailers also are required by law to have locks available for sale as well. And the NSSF’s Project ChildSafe, launched in 2003 and partnered with law enforcement, has distributed more than 36 million free firearm safety education kits – each including a cable-style lock.

“We’re pleased to report that while the incidents she cites in the press release are devastating and horrible, the truth is that the number of firearms fatalities involving accidents are at their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1903,” Keane said, adding that statistically, children are far more likely to die in cars, bathtubs or swimming pools than by handgun.

Speier also Thursday introduced the Modernized Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 2013, which would require the U.S. Attorney General to modify the definition of armor-piercing ammunition to conform to the bullet’s performance, rather than just its metallurgical content. New bullet propellants, coatings and materials have left the original Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986 outdated, she argues, and there’s plenty of ammo for sale now that’s capable of piercing body armor while skirting the 1986 definition.

But Keane said the existing law focuses on composition, not performance, because a performance-based standard would encompass far too much.

“Virtually all rifle ammunition would be banned under her bill,” he said, adding he’s unaware of any cases in which an alternative, non-lead-based bullet has pierced an officer’s vest. “This is an old argument that comes up every couple of years.”

Neither bill has much chance of advancing in the Republican-led House.

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State agents seize arsenal from felon

California’s program to find and seize firearms from those prohibited by law from owning them bore spectacular fruit this week as agents seized an illegal arsenal from a convicted felon.

Agents from the state Justice Department’s Bureau of Firearms seized the weapons late Tuesay from the Sacramento-area home of Britton Edward McFetridge, 37, who was on probation due to a 2010 conviction for felony battery with serious bodily injury. (He broke someone’s face.)

McFetridge's alleged arsenalDuring a probation search of his basement, the agents found eight unregistered assault weapons, one bolt-action rifle, eight large-capacity drum magazines, 100 other large-capacity magazines and more than 20,000 rounds of ammunition.

The weapons had been bought illegally in the last three to five years from private parties, according to the news release from Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office, and the magazines were illegally purchased online. Spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) flagged McFetridge because he had two other firearms registered to him, which agents were unable to locate.

McFetridge was arrested later Tuesday evening at his workplace – the Royal Peacock Tattoo Parlor, apparently – and was booked into the Sacramento County Jail on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, possession of unregistered assault weapons, being a felon in possession of ammunition and large capacity magazines, and violation of probation.

The Sacramento Bee featured McFetridge in an article less than two weeks ago about tattoo artists donating their time for a charity marathon inking session.

APPS cross-references five databases to find people who legally purchased handguns and registered assault weapons since 1996 with people who are prohibited from owning or possessing firearms, including felons and the mentally ill. The system is the only one of its kind in the nation; agents collected 461 firearms and 23,080 rounds of ammunition statewide in the first four months of this year.

Gov. Jerry Brown last month signed into law SB 140, which diverted $24 million into the badly backlogged APPS program from a surplus of background-check fees.

Gun-rights and lobbying groups including the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the California Rifle and Pistol Association had opposed the bill, saying lawful gun owners shouldn’t pay the cost of such a program; any surplus background-check fee money should be returned or lead to a reduction in the fee, they said.

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Honda bill would create cybersecurity centers

The government would create five regional cybersecurity centers, each specific to an industry facing electronic threats, under a bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Mike Honda.

The centers established by Honda’s Excellence in Cybersecurity Act – at a cost of $125 million over the next five fiscal years – would bring together stakeholders from academia, government, and the private and non-profit sectors to analyze threats and develop best practices, the lawmaker said.

honda.jpg“From an economic, social, and national security standpoint, the cyber threat is one of the most important issues facing our country today,” Honda, D-San Jose, said in his news release. “Representing Silicon Valley in Congress, I believe we must be proactive in our approach by developing industry-specific coalitions that bring together a wide variety of stakeholders. I am proposing the creation of vertically-integrated cybersecurity centers to meet this challenge and further America’s economic prosperity and technological growth in the 21st century.”

The centers would be charged with examining existing threats in a specific field; acting as a clearinghouse for information and education; promoting community-centric solutions; and developing yearly reports to the industry and security officials.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s director would decide what industry each center would represent, and where each would be located. There would be a competitive process to win those centers, and you can bet Honda wants Silicon Valley to be at the top of the list for one of them.

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Lee, Huffman will help seek budget deal

Two Bay Area House members will be on the conference committee charged with completing a federal budget deal, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, appointed all Democrats from the House Budget Committee as conferees; that includes Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. Pelosi also called out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for having not appointed any Republican conferees, even though the U.S. Senate passed a budget bill 96 days ago.

“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer for Republicans to act on a reasonable, responsible budget, and neither should we,” she said. “Democrats have put our ideas on the table time and again, with a budget proposal to create jobs, promote growth, invest in innovation and infrastructure, and bring down the deficit in a balanced way.”

Boehner at a news conference this morning said the nation’s 1.8 percent economic growth in the year’s first quarter isn’t enough. “That’s why Republicans are continuing to listen to the American people, and offering a real jobs plan for American families and small businesses,” he said. “Our jobs plan can bring us out of this ‘new normal’ and deliver sustained economic growth, and expand opportunity for all Americans.”

Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee held a hearing Wednesday on “America’s Energy Revolution,” which chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc, acknowledged “isn’t a big part of the federal budget.” Huffman accused the committee of wasting time.

“We continue to have these pep rallies for the oil and gas industry while real problems are simply, for some reason, off the table. We don’t even have a conference committee so we can move forward and try to negotiate a federal budget, but we’re here to have a pep rally for the oil and gas industry,” Huffman said at the hearing. “We’ve got student loan interest rates about to double in less than a week, but we’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about any number of things, like the sequester and the people that are actually suffering. We’re here to talk about folks who are experiencing record profits. There are real problems that we need to be solving, and we need to be working together.”

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Politicians react to same-sex marriage rulings

EVERYBODY has something to say about today’s U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage. Here’s the latest from your Bay Area elected officials.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“As author of the bill to repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, I am thrilled by today’s Supreme Court decision.

“Today’s ruling clearly establishes that the 14 senators who opposed DOMA in 1996 were correct. It also states that one class of legally married individuals cannot be denied rights under federal law accorded to all other married couples. Doing so denies ‘equal protection’ under the Constitution. This is an important and significant decision.

“Because of inequities in the administration of more than 1,100 federal laws affected by DOMA, it is still necessary to introduce legislation to repeal DOMA and strike this law once and for all. I will introduce that legislation today with 39 cosponsors in the Senate.

“As a Californian, I am thrilled by the Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8. The court’s ruling on technical grounds leaves in place former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision that Prop 8 is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

“I believe this decision means marriage equality will finally be restored in California.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“Today my spirits are soaring because the Supreme Court reaffirmed the promise of America by rejecting two blatantly unconstitutional measures that discriminated against millions of our families.
“I was proud to have voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, and it is so heartening to see that the federal government will now treat all marriages equally.

“Because of the Court’s ruling on Proposition 8, millions of Californians will be able to marry the person they love – with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today, the Supreme Court bent the arc of history once again toward justice. The court placed itself on the right side of history by discarding Section 3 of the defenseless Defense of Marriage Act and by allowing marriage equality for all families in California. The highest court in the land reaffirmed the promise inscribed into its walls: ‘equal justice under law.’

“Soon, the federal government will no longer discriminate against any family legally married in the United States. California will join 12 other states and the District of Columbia in recognizing the fundamental rights of all families. Our country will move one step closer to securing equal protection for all of our citizens.

“Nearly 44 years to the day after the Stonewall Riots turned the nation’s attention to discrimination against LGBT Americans, the fight for equal rights took a giant step forward. Yet even with today’s victory at the Supreme Court, the struggle for marriage equality is not over. Whether in the courts or in state legislatures, we will not rest until men and women in every state are granted equal rights. We will keep working to ensure that justice is done for every American, no matter who they love.”

Tons more, after the jump…
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Did Steinberg bawl out Yee in public-records flap?

Did state Senate Democratic leaders call Sen. Leland Yee on the carpet behind closed doors last week after Yee spoke out against their proposal to water down the California Public Records Act?

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he didn’t dress down Yee; Yee won’t say. But two reliable sources – a good-government policy advocate I talked with last week at Netroots Nation, and a State Capitol expert I talked with today – say that’s exactly what happened.

Darrell SteinbergThey said Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was none too pleased that Yee, D-San Francisco, spoke with me on Friday, June 14 as Thomas Peele and I prepared an article about the budget trailer bills that would’ve let local governments opt out of key parts of the public-records law.

Bad blood between Steinberg and Yee reportedly dates back to their Assembly days, as both jockeyed for leadership positions and influence. In the Senate, Steinberg has stripped Yee’s name from a few bills in recent years – including a 2009 bill to restore funding for domestic violence shelters and a 2010 bill providing relief after the San Bruno explosion – and stripped Yee of his title as assistant pro tem in 2010, in part because Yee opposed the Dems’ budget deal.

So Yee’s public criticism of Steinberg, Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno and other Democrats who’d voted to water down the Public Records Act shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but Steinberg and other Dems reportedly were miffed nonetheless that Yee had hung them out to dry in public.

“God forbid you vote your conscience and then tell people why,” said the State Capitol expert I talked with today, noting that it would’ve been foolish for anyone to think Yee – a longtime government-transparency activist who’s running for Secretary of State next year – would either vote for the bill or remain silent about it afterward if called by a reporter.

Leland YeeYee wouldn’t discuss it today. “We don’t have any further comment on that matter,” spokesman Dan Lieberman said. “We’re just glad the CPRA is being protected.”

Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund said no caucus meeting was convened for the purpose of dressing down Yee; when I asked whether Yee was dressed down during a caucus meeting that was convened for some other purpose, he replied with a simple, “No.”

“Senate Democrats all strongly support the Public Records Act. That support has never waned,” Hedlund said. “What we now have is a fair compromise that offers a short-term solution, while allowing the people of California to constitutionally enshrine CPRA protections and to ensure that state taxpayers don’t pay for what local governments should be doing on their own.”