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House members reintroduce background-check bill

A bipiartisan group of House members led by the Bay Area’s Mike Thompson and Pete King, R-N.Y., has re-introduced a bill that would require background checks for all firearm purchases, including those at gun shows, over the internet or in classified ads.

But with Republicans in control of the House and Senate, the bill seems doomed from the get-go – especially given that it went nowhere in the last Congress.

H.R. 1217, the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2015, would provide exceptions for family and friend transfers. Its original co-authors are Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; Pat Meehan, R-Pa.; Bob Dold, R-Ill.; Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.; Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y.

Mike Thompson“This anti-criminal, pro-Second Amendment bill will help keep spouses, kids and communities safe by preventing dangerous people from getting guns,” Thompson, D-St. Helena, said in a news release. “Background checks are the first line of defense in our efforts to keep guns from criminals, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, and Congress should fortify that first line of defense by passing our bipartisan bill to close the system’s loopholes.”

King noted the bill also would improve state and federal record-keeping to strengthen the background-check database, and would create a commission to examine mass-violence incidents.

“When background checks are used, they keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have guns,” he said. “It is estimated that four out of 10 gun buyers do not go through a background check when purchasing a firearm – meaning those with criminal records can easily bypass the system. As government officials it is our responsibility to protect our citizens, and when it comes to gun violence we must do more.”

The bill’s authors say studies show that every day where background checks are used, the system stops more than 170 felons, some 50 domestic abusers, and nearly 20 fugitives from buying a gun. But in much of the nation, no system is in place to prevent these same prohibited purchasers from buying identical guns at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad with no questions asked.

But the bill also bans the government from creating a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It also provides exceptions for firearms transfers between family members, friends and hunting buddies; lets active military personnel buy guns in the state in which they are stationed; and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s identical to the bill Thompson and King authored introduced in 2013 – but though it had 188 co-sponsors, H.R. 1565 was never even heard in committee. It’s also the same as the Manchin-Toomey amendment that failed in the Senate in April 2013.

The National Rifle Association opposes expanding background checks, claiming they won’t stop criminals from getting firearms by theft or via the black market.

But Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said this should be “a no-brainer.”

Ninety-two percent of the American public supports this measure to keep guns out of the hands of people like domestic abusers, rapists, and fugitives,” Gross said. “More importantly, it will save lives. We need to let our representatives know that we will not tolerate them putting the interests of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the lives and safety of the citizens they have been elected to represent.”

This new bill has been referred to the House Judiciary and Veterans’ Affairs committees; don’t hold your breath waiting for a hearing date

Posted on Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Under: gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

Mike Honda offers body armor, gun control bills

Rep. Mike Honda introduced a package of three bills this week that he said will increase public safety and aid law enforcement – and are sure to drive gun-rights activists into a rage.

honda.jpgHonda, D-San Jose, on Wednesday introduced H.R. 378, the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, which would prohibit the purchase, sale, or possession of military-grade body armor by anyone except certain authorized users such as first-responders and law enforcement. This is his second try at such legislation; the bill he introduced last summer died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

He also introduced H.R. 377, the Homemade Firearms Accountability Act, which would require that guns that are self-assembled or manufactured at home be regulated the same as those that are purchased. That means all homemade guns would have to have serial numbers. Here too, Honda tried this in the last Congress, but his bill died in the Judiciary Committee without a hearing.

But H.R. 376, the Home-Assembled Firearms Restriction Act, is a new one – it would ban the sale and purchase of “incomplete lower receivers,” which are easily purchased and converted into functioning firearms.

AR15 incomplete lower receiverThis could be the most controversial of the three. There’s a big trade in incomplete lower receivers, which often let gun enthusiasts build weapons they wouldn’t be able to buy in stores due to existing laws.

“These bills are sensible, reasonable measures to limit the damage that can be inflicted by guns and those who mean harm with them,” Honda said in a news release. “We have seen too many people injured and killed by guns to just stand by and do nothing. These bills will modernize our gun laws to reflect how weapons are currently getting into the wrong hands.”

Honda’s office said the whole package is supported by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, Newark Police Chief James Leal, Stop Handgun Violence, the Coalition for Peace Action, and the Violence Policy Center. The body-armor bill also is supported by the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California State Sheriffs’ Association. And the serial-number bill also is supported by Third Way and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Honda’s office said he’ll be introducing legislation in each of this Congress’ first six weeks “that addresses a key part of the modern progressive agenda.” Last week, he offered four bills on manufacturing and technology; in coming weeks he’ll tackle human trafficking, STEM education, advanced technology, and the environment and energy infrastructure.

Posted on Thursday, January 15th, 2015
Under: gun control, Mike Honda, U.S. House | 3 Comments »

Bay Area’s big cities have gun buybacks Saturday

The Bay Area’s three biggest cities are holding gun buyback events Saturday, a day short of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting massacre’s second anniversary.

2013 San Jose buybackSan Jose’s event runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (or sooner, if the money runs out) at P.A.L. Stadium, 680 S. 34th St., hosted by the San Jose Police Department, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, Councilman Xavier Campos, County Supervisor Cindy Chavez and Assemblywoman Nora Campos.

“I am proud to have started this event last year, that saw 463 weapons get turned in, and even more proud that it will be continuing this year and tentatively for any years to come,” Xavier Campos said. “The community has spoken loud and clear that public safety is number one. This event will look to help take dangerous, unused, and illegal weapons off the street in an effort to help our Police Department make our neighborhoods and our city safe for all.”

Oakland’s and San Francisco’s events are partially funded by Gun by Gun, a tech nonprofit that crowdfunds gun buybacks. As of Thursday, the group had raised more than $70,000 from more than 600 individual donors for buybacks in four cities.

“The crowdfunding campaign is designed to put power back in the hands of the community” said Gun by Gun cofounder Ian Johnston, who was 10 when he lost his father to gun violence. “People are frustrated by the rate of gun violence we experience and they want to see results.”

Oakland’s buyback will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd., co-hosted by the Oakland Police Department. Open only to Oakland residents, organizers will offer up to $100 for handguns, shotguns and rifles, and up to $200 for firearms that meet the state’s definition of assault weapons.

San Francisco’s buyback will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at United Playaz, 1038 Howard Street. Tech investor Ron Conway is matching the first $10,000 in donations to the crowdfunding campaign. The San Francisco Unified School District this week sent home letters to every student’s parent encouraging them to take part in the buyback.

“Gun homicides are the leading cause of death for our young people in San Francisco,” said school board member Matt Haney. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students.”

But critics say this isn’t the way to curb violence.

“Gun buybacks are not only largely meaningless, they are actually dangerous, because they do absolutely nothing to address the underlying issues of violence in our society. They do however offer a great photo opportunity,” Eric Wooten, president of the Liberal Gun Owners Association, wrote in an opinion piece published Thursday by the San Francisco Chronicle. “But after the last photo is snapped and the last tweet tweeted, the entrenched inequities and other societal problems that actually cause violence will still be left unaddressed.”

Unemployment, a biased War on Drugs, and educational disparities are the roots of violence, he wrote.

“What you won’t hear from those supporting this gun buyback is that the number of guns netted is probably less than the number of guns legally bought in the greater Bay Area in just the few hours it took to hold the buyback,” Wooten wrote. “If we want to actually reduce violence, the effort spent on today’s gun buyback would be far better focused on education or other social programs aimed at improving equality of opportunity.”

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2014
Under: gun control | 38 Comments »

Supporters rally for ‘gun restraining order’ bill

Advocates of a bill that would create a “gun violence restraining order” system are stepping up their efforts in advance of a state Senate floor vote later this month.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, along with several Bay Area police chiefs and gun control advocates, rallied Monday morning outside the Emeryville Police Department in support of AB 1014. Skinner and Santa Barbara Democrats Assemblyman Das Williams and state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson announced the bill soon after a May rampage at UC-Santa Barbara left six students dead.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get guns out of the hands of someone in crisis,” Skinner said in a news release Monday. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool to help prevent these tragedies.”

Modeled on domestic violence laws, AB 1014 creates a process to intervene and potentially prohibit the purchase of firearms and/or remove firearms already in possession by a person who shows warning signs of a risk of violence. Law enforcement or family members would have the right to ask a judge to grant an order prohibiting firearms purchase or possession. Connecticut, Indiana and Texas have similar laws, Skinner’s office said.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed, or the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“AB 1014 fills an important gap in the law that prevents law enforcement from acting to prevent violence before it happens,” Emeryville Police Chief Ken James, a longtime gun-control advocate, said in Skinner’s news release. “This need has been obvious to law enforcement for years. But the time to act is now. The tragedy in Santa Barbara makes that obvious.”

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved the bill on a 5-2 vote June 24, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it Friday on a 5-0 vote with two Republicans not voting.

Posted on Monday, August 18th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner | 9 Comments »

Poll: 92% of voters want gun background checks

Americans overwhelmingly support requiring background checks for all gun buyers – so long as you don’t call it “gun control,” according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Thursday.

The poll of 1,446 registered voters nationwide found 92 percent support universal background checks with only 7 percent opposed; the poll, conducted June 24-30, has a 2.6-percentage point margin of error. Among gun owners, support for universal background checks is 92 percent; among Republicans, 86 percent; and among Democrats, 98 percent, the poll found.

Also, 89 percent of U.S. voters support laws to prevent people with mental illness from buying guns; 91 percent of gun owners support this idea.

Yet when asked if they support “stricter gun control laws,” 50 percent said yes and 47 percent said no.

“Americans are all in on stricter background checks on gun buyers and on keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “But when it comes to ‘stricter gun control,’ three words which prompt a negative reflex, almost half of those surveyed say ‘hands off.’”

The U.S. Senate last year rejected an amendment that would have expanded background checks to online and gun-show sales. H.R. 1565, a similar, bipartisan House measure co-authored by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, has 188 cosponsors, but Republican House leaders have refused to put it to a vote.

Thompson issued a statement Thursday saying that “as a hunter, gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment,” he’s proud to count himself among the 92 percent supporting universal background checks. He said it’s time that GOP House members heed that overwhelming call “and bring our bill up for a vote – because if the Republican Majority would allow a vote, my bill would pass.”

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the new poll “reaffirms what we all already know.”

“It is almost unthinkable that, despite such overwhelming public support, Congress continues to put the interests of the corporate gun lobby ahead of the safety of the American people and will not even vote on expanding background checks to online sales and gun shows,” he said. “It is time we come together and hold the NRA lapdogs accountable for the lives that are being lost every day because of their despicable behavior.”

Posted on Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
Under: gun control, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | No Comments »

Bill would require cops to check gun database

Weeks after a mentally ill student killed six people plus himself and injured 13 in a rampage near UC-Santa Barbara, a state lawmaker has proposed two new bills she says will help prevent gun violence and save lives.

Hannah-Beth JacksonSB 505 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would require that law enforcement officers who are making a “welfare check” on someone who might be a danger to themselves or others must first check that person’s name against the state Justice Department’s firearm database.

Deputies who visited Elliot Rodger in April hadn’t checked the system, and so didn’t discover he owned three handguns – all of which were found in his car after his deadly rampage through the Isla Vista on May 23.

“In addition to instigating an important conversation about mental illness and gun violence, the tragedy in Isla Vista has also raised questions about law enforcement protocols,” Jackson said in a news release issued Wednesday. “Right now, we seem to have a patchwork of inconsistent agency policy on database checks. This bill would create consistency and ensure that law enforcement agencies are using the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others.”

Deputies still might have lacked legal authority to seize Rodger’s guns, she said, but they at least could’ve made a more informed judgment about the threat he presented. “We will never know for sure if the outcome in Isla Vista might have been different with a gun database search,” Jackson said. “But the next time California experiences a similar tragedy, we shouldn’t be left wondering. Searches of the gun database can be done in as little as 90 seconds, and those 90 seconds can help save lives.”

Jackson also is offering SB 580 to provide more money for police to enforce existing laws, specifically:

    $5 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies to take guns away from those who currently illegally possess them; the state Bureau of Firearms has identified 20,834 people with a prior criminal conviction or mental health disorder which disqualifies them from possessing more than 43,000 firearms, and the list grows by about 15 to 20 people per day.
    $10 million over three years to improve the efficiency of the Justice Department’s aging data systems used to register gun ownership, conduct background checks, and monitor the possession of firearms by prohibited persons.
    $50,000 for the Justice Department to train local law enforcement on how to effectively use the Automated Firearms System, the centralized database of gun purchases.

“This case highlighted the need to consult these databases,” Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, a co-author of SB 580, said in Jackson’s news release. “But, we need to make sure there’s adequate training so law enforcement can use those databases effectively.”

SB 505 is scheduled for an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on June 24; no hearing has been set yet for SB 580.

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control | No Comments »

‘Gun violence restraining order’ bill proposed

Lawmakers reacted to the Santa Barbara shooting by announcing plans Tuesday for a bill to create a “gun violence restraining order.”

The bill would establish a system in which concerned relatives, intimate partners or friends can notify police about someone showing a propensity toward violence, so police can investigate and seek a judge’s order to seize that person’s firearms and prevent any purchases.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed and the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies.”

Skinner will co-author the bill with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. “The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing,” Williams said. “Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together.”

Also, state Senate Democrats will present a package of mental health policy and budget proposals Wednesday in Sacramento “to address mental healthcare within California’s criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety,” according to a release from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s office. “The package includes a proposal to strengthen and apply statewide protocols to help frontline law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner | 4 Comments »

Speier: Yee case proves need for gun control

Amid the cries of rank hypocrisy accompanying state Sen. Leland Yee – a staunch gun-control advocate – being charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to traffic guns, a Bay Area congresswoman says Yee’s case proves the need for stricter gun control.

Jackie Speier“This FBI investigation of Leland Yee reveals how easy it is to import lethal assault weapons that were previously banned,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a statement released Wednesday. “This case should be a warning to us all that even the most trusted appearing among us are ready to do real harm. Since Congress can pass no meaningful gun control laws, even after the mass killing in Newtown, President Obama should use his pen to slow the import of these weapons, which have no place in our homes.”

Speier says a ban on imported assault weapons was first imposed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and strengthened by President Bill Clinton, but lapsed under President George W. Bush and is no longer enforced.

That didn’t seem to be a factor in Yee’s alleged crimes, so far as one can tell from the affidavit filed by the FBI.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Gun-rights backers decry Leland Yee’s hypocrisy

Gun-rights advocates are up in arms about state Sen. Leland Yee’s alleged double life – an ardent gun-control advocate in public, while secretly negotiating with purported mobsters to set up international gun deals.

“It appears that Leland Yee is not only an epic gun-control hypocrite, but also exactly the type of truly dangerous gun trafficking criminal who my clients have always urged authorities to throw the book at,” Chuck Michel, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association, said Thursday.

Leland YeeYee, D-San Francisco, famously has carried “bullet button” legislation, which would ban a common modification to semi-automatic rifles that lets users quickly swap out their ammunition magazines without running afoul of the state’s assault weapons law. His SB 47 was pulled from consideration last August, a few weeks before the end of the legislative session, but remains pending in the Assembly.

That bill was among eight that made up state Senate Democrats “LIFE Act” gun-control package last year.

“The prevalence of deadly, military-style weapons in our society has resulted in countless tragedies,” Yee said last April. “It is past time to put some common sense laws into place in order to prevent such tragedies in the future. The LIFE Act is a bold step forward in this effort.”

Yee is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of “honest services.” Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking count is punishable by up to five years and $250,000. Free on $500,000 bond, Yee is scheduled to return to court Monday.

An FBI affidavit says Yee told an undercover FBI agent he could facilitate big shipments of guns into the country in exchange for campaign contributions. No guns actually changed hands, but Yee accepted a $5,000 contribution from a bogus company set up by the agent as their negotiations continued in a series of face-to-face meetings from January through March 14. At one such meeting, Yee allegedly discussed specific locations in the Philippines and Florida that might be ideal for moving the guns, which he said would include M-16-type automatic rifles.

Consider what Yee said last October when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would’ve classified all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines as banned assault weapons.

“California’s Assault Weapons Ban has protected the public for decades,” Yee said at the time. “But we must work to make sure that it is capable of dealing with new threats that face California. In the Governor’s veto message, he spoke of the importance of our gun laws and the need to make sure they are carefully tailored. SB 47 will protect the public while keeping an appropriately narrow scope.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 49 Comments »

State court refuses to block Sunnyvale Measure C

Sunnyvale’s new ordinance requiring ammunition sellers to log and keep buyers’ names for two years isn’t preempted by state law and so won’t be blocked, a Santa Clara County judge has ruled.

Judge Kevin McKenney refused to block enforcement of the new law, which was approved by city voters last November as part of Measure C, as requested by a local gun-store owner and a national gun-industry trade group.

The plaintiffs – U.S. Firearms, a Sunnyvale store; Eric Fisher, its owner; and the National Shooting Sports Foundation – claimed the ammo-sales log requirement was pre-empted by California’s Anti-Gang Neighborhood Protection Act of 2009. That law would’ve required that all “handgun ammunition” sales be done face-to-face, and would’ve required buyers of such ammunition to show valid ID, which the seller would record and keep for at least five years.

But a Fresno County Superior Court judge issued an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect in 2010. The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District agreed last November, finding the law is unconstitutionally vague – there’s no definition of “handgun ammunition” clear enough for the law to be enforceable, it ruled – and blocking the law’s enforcement. The state Supreme Court just agreed in February to review that case.

Sunnyvale argued that with no state law in effect, city voters were free to enact their own rules. McKenney agreed last week.

“A contrary conclusion would unreasonably intrude upon the constitutional right of local governments to enact and enforce ordinances and regulations that serve legitimate purposes where the state law forming the basis for a preemption claim is indefinitely inoperative for reasons that do not undermine the efficacy of the local legislation,” the judge wrote.

McKenney also found the plantiffs didn’t establish that they could win their case by arguing the ordinance violates their constitutional rights.

Other parts of Measure C require gun owners to notify police within 48 hours of the loss or theft of a firearm and o keep firearms locked up when not in the owner’s immediate possession, and ban possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The National Rifle Association has challenged the magazine possession ban in federal court; a trial judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused this month to block the ban’s enforcement, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review their rulings.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: gun control | No Comments »