As I noted in my story published Saturday, Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 vetoed a bill that would have classified all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines as assault weapons – rifles like those used in last week’s terrorism massacre in San Bernardino, and like those owned by many Californians.
That bill, SB 374, had been the centerpiece of a package of gun control bills that lawmakers introduced in the wake of December 2012’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“This ban covers low-capacity rifles that are commonly used for hunting, firearms training, and marksmanship practice, as well as some historical and collectible firearms,” Brown wrote in his veto message. “Moreover, hundreds of thousands of current gun owners would have to register their rifles as assault weapons and would be banned from selling or transferring them in the future.”
Brown told the Sacramento Bee on Saturday that “California has some of the toughest gun control laws of any state. And Nevada and Arizona are wide open, so that’s a gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.”
Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the California-based progressive grassroots Courage Campaign, said Brown is “is correct that deeply irresponsible gun laws in other states make it more difficult to protect Californians, but the guns used in the San Bernardino attack were purchased legally in California.” The rifles were modified after purchase in ways that made them illegal under the state’s assault weapons law.
“When Gov. Brown had the chance to sign into law bills preventing the sale of such semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, he made an unconscionable and short sighted decision to veto SB 374 and other LIFE Act bills in 2013,” Kurtz said. “While guns used in the San Bernardino attack appear to have been purchased prior to 2013, Gov. Brown failed to do everything in his power to prevent mass shootings in California.”
Kurtz said “Brown needs to stop making excuses and immediately announce his support for the full policies of the LIFE Act, including a ban on semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines and background checks for ammunition.”
But Brown believes it’s time for national action. In Paris for an international climate-change conference, Brown told CNN on Monday that he believes stricter federal laws are needed, but that he’s not sure a ballot measure – like that proposed by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to ban possession of high-capacity magazines and require background checks for ammunition purchases – is the best way to enact further state gun controls.