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Not much hubbub over veto of Oakland gun bill

Those who wanted Oakland to be able to pass its own, stricter gun laws seemed unwilling to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown for his veto Monday.

AB 180 would’ve let Oakland establish its own ordinances – stricter than state law – on registration or licensing of firearms.

“The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearms regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty,” Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, wrote in his veto message issued Friday. “I am mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence, but this is not the right solution.”

Rob BontaThe bill’s author – Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – seemed to take it in stride.

“I will continue to fight for the people of Oakland to be free from the gun violence which plagues our community,” said Bonta, who as chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay has held field hearings on the issue. “In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that he was ‘mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence. I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor as to how the state can continue to assist Oakland in the future.”

Oakland City Council in May unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by council members Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as the city attorney’s office – supporting AB 180.

“Though we’re certainly disappointed that AB 180 was vetoed, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate the victories of our advocacy,” Kaplan spokesman Jason Overman said Monday. “Governor Brown signed an important bill authored by Assemblymember Skinner to create new common-sense gun laws that seek to reduce gun violence, both in Oakland and across California.”

The Skinner bill Overman referred to is AB 48, which makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, lend, buy or receive any conversion kit that can convert a legal ammunition-feeding device into an illegal large-capacity magazine. The bill also makes it a crime to buy or receive a large-capacity magazine; manufacturing or selling such magazines already has been illegal in California for more than a decade.

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Video game makers urged to shun gun industry

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, soon after December’s Newtown school massacre, had said some blame should be put upon a video-game industry that glorifies murder, “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows violence against its own people.”

But what about firearms in video games?

As the video-game industry begins its annual Electronic Entertainment Expo today in Los Angeles, two gun-control groups are calling upon game makers to stop signing lucrative licensing agreements and product-placement deals with gun manufacturers, so that images of actual military-style weapons don’t appear in games.

Battlefield 4A report published today by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and The Gun Truth Project says video games often feature real-world weapons identified by make and model, and have offered cross-promotional opportunities to players to buy them once the game is over.

“We are outraged that video game companies and gun manufacturers are entering into deals to market guns to our children, particularly given the real-life epidemic of gun violence in America,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “The gun industry and their lobbyists have proven time and again that they’re only motive is profit, not encouraging reforms or regulations that would make our children and families safer. To them, our children are pawns to be manipulated for profit.”

Like any other product placement deal, these licensing agreements are meant to increasing the visibility of firearms. One gun industry representative cited in the report said video games provide an opportunity to promote to children, “who are considered possible future owners.”

Yet the report’s authors claim games featuring real-world guns don’t sell any better than games with made-up weapon names – the economic benefit is almost exclusively on the gun manufacturers’ side, the report says.

Redwood City-based Electronic Arts last month announced it will no longer enter into such licensing agreements. “We not only applaud that decision, we are asking the rest of the video game industry to follow suit,” Watts said in a news release. “There is no reason why video game manufacturers should do the gun industry’s dirty work, promoting assault and military-style weapons to our children and teens.”

Actually, EA said it would cut its licensing ties to gunmakers – but continue featuring branded guns without a license.

Watts’ effort to get other companies to sign a pledge is supported by the Every Child Matters Education Fund is supporting the effort. “Thousands of children and teenagers are killed by guns every year,” said fund president Michael Petit. “How any company, knowing that, could continue to market guns to our kids is simply beyond me. It is unacceptable.”

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Last-minute pot taxation scheme raises hackles

An eleventh-hour legislative effort to establish a state licensing and taxation scheme for legalized marijuana has activists atwitter.

When state Sen. Ron Calderon introduced SB 1131 in February, it dealt with prohibiting the state from spending any money to film or produce commercials outside of California. But Calderon, D-Montebello, gutted and amended the bill Aug. 20 – the deadline to do so for this session – to instead create “the Cannabis Licensing Act.”

The bill now would provide for the licensure by the State Board of Equalization of growers, importers, wholesalers, retailers, and transporters of cannabis and cannabis products doing business in California. Each wholesaler would be required to prepay the retail sales tax on its gross receipts derived from the sale of cannabis and cannabis products.

It would require such licensees to keep records of every sale, transfer or delivery of cannabis or cannabis products; would authorize any peace officer and certain BOE employees to conduct inspections; and would prohibit anyone from selling or purchasing cannabis or cannabis products without a license. Cannabis or cannabis products bought or sold in violation of this law could be seized, and violators could face license revocation or suspension, civil penalties or criminal prosecution.

An Aug. 20 Assembly staff analysis of the bill says:

According to the author’s office, this bill “creates a licensing structure similar to the Tobacco Licensing Act of 2003 (Act) which imposed licensing requirements on all retailers, wholesalers, and distributors of cigarettes and tobacco products and all manufacturers and importers of cigarettes. The Act, intended to decrease tax evasion on the sales of cigarettes and tobacco products in California, also included provisions for new recordkeeping requirements, inspection and seizure of any untaxed cigarettes or tobacco products, and imposed civil and criminal penalties for violations.”

Calderon tells Capitol Weekly that his bill would help the board collect taxes on medical marijuana sales, letting the state reap up to $160 million per year it otherwise would miss. He also said it’s aimed at the existing medical marijuana industry in California, and isn’t a response to Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization measure on November’s ballot; however, much of the bill’s language applies to marijuana sales in general and likely could encompass non-medical sales if voters decide to allow them.

Dale Gieringer, executive director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, wrote online that “SB 1131 would require all commercial growers, retailers, wholesalers, and transporters to register with the state, but would DO NOTHING to legally protect them by changing the law to explicitly legalize wholesale or retail sales. The bill would also create an extraordinary, new, complicated system to require wholesalers to pay part of the retailers’ sales tax in advance.”

Gieringer urged people to contact Assembly Rules Committee Chairwoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, through whose committee the newly amended bill must go first. “Please tell the Committee to reject Calderon’s underhanded effort to pass this ill-considered bill into law without proper hearings.”