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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.

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Governor vetoes medical marijuana zoning bill

Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would’ve barred medical marijuana dispensaries from being located with 600 feet of a school or residential area, unless city or county officials enact their own ordinances.

The bill was SB 847 by state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana. The state Senate had passed it 31-2 in June; the Assembly had passed it 68-5 in August; and the state Senate had concurred in the Assembly’s amendments on a 34-4 vote in August.

“I have already signed AB 1300 that gave cities and counties authority to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries – an authority I believe they already had,” Brown said in his veto message. “This bill goes in the opposite direction by preempting local control and prescribing the precise locations in which dispensaries may not be located. Decisions of this kind are best made in cities and counties, not the State Capitol.”

SB 847 had originated with the city of Anaheim and was supported by groups such as the Peace Officers Research Association of California; advocates contended it would create a buffer zone until local governments can enact their own ordinances.

Groups including Americans for Safe Access, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project had opposed SB 847, saying it would force a one-size-fits-all zoning scheme on local governments, and would lead to a lack of access to medical marijuana in some high-density urban areas.

Don Duncan, Americans for Safe Access’ California director, blogged today that the veto followed a groundswell of opposition from medical marijuana advocates, proving “that grassroots participation makes a difference.”

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The AB 144 ‘open carry’ ban update

I guess this isn’t much of an update, in that nobody knows what’s going to happen.

AB 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. Violations are a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. Law enforcement personnel are exempt as are security guards, hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances.

The Assembly passed the bill in May on a 46-29 vote, and after gun-rights activists spent the summer leaning on state Senators to oppose the bill, the Senate approved it on a 21-18 vote last Thursday; the Assembly then concurred in the Senate’s amendments last Friday with a 48-30 vote last Friday, sending the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

And there it sits, fate unknown. Someone in Brown’s office told me today he’s not sure what the governor will do; the Sacramento Bee is reporting that Brown says he’s going to be vetoing a slew of bills in the next few weeks, believing many of them just aren’t necessary. I’d talked with Portantino’s office yesterday, where they said they’re “cautiously optimistic” but unsure where the governor stands.

Meanwhile, the bill’s opponents keep working the social media, trying to get people to call Brown’s office to urge a veto.

“And if Governor Brown does decide to sign AB 144, it is almost certain that the law will be challenged in court,” Adnan Shahab of Fremont, president of Responsible Citizens of California and a Republican candidate in the 20th Assembly District, said in an e-mail he sent me late last week. “There are constitutional issues that must addressed, as well as how this law relates to the recent court ruling that the highly discriminatory shall-issue concealed weapons permitting process in California is legal partly because open carry is also available to residents as an alternate means of carry in this state.”

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually, or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law.

Supporters of this bill, including the California Police Chiefs Association, Peace Officers Research Association of California and various gun-control groups, say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers checking to ensure the guns aren’t loaded, in accordance with state law.

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Bill to ban ‘open carry’ advances in state Senate

A bill to ban the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public moved ahead today as the state Senate Public Safety Committee approved it 4-2.

AB 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, now goes to the state Senate Appropriations Committee; the Assembly passed it last month. The bill would make openly carrying an unloaded handgun in any public place or street a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000; law enforcement personnel are exempt as are hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances.

“When average Californians go to the mall, movies or Starbucks they shouldn’t face tense situations where law enforcement officials are called out to investigate openly carried firearms,” Portantino said in his news release today. “Our limited resources should not be diverted from real crime situations. Open Carry puts the public in danger as well as law enforcement personnel. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t take a hand gun to buy a cheeseburger.”

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually, or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law. Opponents say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers checking to ensure the guns aren’t loaded, in accordance with state law.

Among the bill’s supporters are the California Police Chiefs Association; the Peace Officers Research Association of California; Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca; the cities of Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills; and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for the pro-open-carry Responsible Citizens of California, last month said there’s a “pretty good chance of seeing it defeated on the Senate floor,” and if not, Gov. Jerry Brown “has supported second amendment rights in the past, so I believe there’s a good chance he wont sign the bill.” If the bill is signed into law, he said, it will face a challenge in court.

Chang’s group and other gun-rights activists have been using Facebook and Twitter to try to pressure senators to oppose the bill.

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Assembly passes bill to ban ‘open carry’

The Assembly voted 45-29 today to pass a Southern California lawmaker’s bill to prohibit the “open carry” of unloaded handguns in public places, sending the bill onward to the state Senate.

open carryAB 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would make it a crime to openly carry an unloaded handgun in any public place or street. A violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. Law enforcement personnel are exempt as are hunters and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances.

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually, or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law. Opponents say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers checking to ensure the guns aren’t loaded, in accordance with state law.

“I am very pleased that my fellow legislators agree this is a sensible gun ban that should be law in California,” Portantino said in a news release. “I’ve worked closely with law enforcement personnel who are concerned that the open display of firearms in crowded public places creates some very real public safety issues. As I’ve said all along, our families deserve to feel safe in our parks and coffeshops; after all, you don’t need a gun to order a cup of coffee.”

The California Police Chiefs Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) support AB 144, he noted.

“Open Carry wastes law enforcement time and resources when they could be out catching bad guys. Instead, they are tied up dealing with frantic calls from the public about gun-toting men and women on Main Street, California. As law enforcement officials tell me, it’s not safe and someone is going to get hurt.”

Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for the pro-open-carry Responsible Citizens of California, said the bill met “a very heated and very robust debate, and a lot of the points made by the Republican Assembly members were very valid; overall they represent the voice of a large part of the California community, particularly those concerned with Second Amendment rights.”

Chang said there’s a “pretty good chance of seeing it defeated on the Senate floor,” and if not, Gov. Jerry Brown “has supported second amendment rights in the past, so I believe there’s a good chance he wont sign the bill.” If the bill is signed into law, he said, it will face a challenge in court.

A similar bill, AB 1934 by Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, died in September without a final vote after two days of tense maneuvering; Saldaña was then term-limited out of office. The state Senate approved her bill on a 21-16 vote after state senators Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, and Gloria Negrete-McLeod, D-Chino, lent last-minute support despite a phone and fax blitz by gun-rights activists. But the bill had to win a concurrence vote in the Assembly, where Republicans threatened to run out the clock on the bill by debating it until after the midnight deadline — thus also threatening other bills awaiting votes. Majority Leader Chuck Calderon, D-Whittier, eventually won a motion to delay AB 1934’s consideration, and there it died.

UPDATE @ 5:28 P.M.: Wow – it has become a truly crappy day for gun-rights advocates in California. This just in from the Associated Press:

A federal judge has ruled against gun-rights advocates who had challenged how much discretion California law enforcement officials have in issuing concealed weapons permits.

U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England Jr. in Sacramento supported a policy by Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto, who says applicants must have a reason, such as a safety threat, to legally carry a hidden gun.

Prieto was sued by advocates who say sheriffs, who issue most such permits, must give them to any applicants as long as they are not mentally ill, do not have a criminal background and complete a training course. Similar lawsuits were filed in Maryland, Massachusetts and New York.

In his ruling Monday, England said the Second Amendment “does not create a fundamental right to carry a concealed weapon in public.”

Click here to read England’s order in its entirety.