Backers of a gun control initiative proposed for the November ballot argued during a legislative forum Tuesday that it is needed to make California safer, while opponents said it will unfairly harm law-abiding gun owners and is primarily aimed at getting Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom elected governor.
Newsom turned in 600,000 signatures last week for an initiative that would require background checks for ammunition purchasers, ban large-capacity magazines, make gun thefts a felony and require those convicted of serious crimes to give up their firearms within 14 days.
The Assembly and Senate Public Safety committees held a joint hearing on the proposal Tuesday in anticipation of the measure qualifying.
Craig DeLuz, head of the Firearms Policy Coalition, told lawmakers that most of the provisions in the initiative have been rejected by the Legislature or the governor as “too extreme or unworkable.”
He said the real purpose of the initiative is to get Newsom elected as governor in 2018.
“It’s for one individual to get his name in the paper so he can run for higher office,” DeLuz told the lawmakers.
That drew a rubuke from state Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), chair of the Senate panel.
“I do take offense at the personal attacks on the proponents of the intiative,” Hancock said during the hearing.
Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) responded, saying the initiative is unnecessary.
“I am equally offended that the person who came up with this initiative isn’t here today to address this body,” she said. “That’s incredibly disrespectful.”
Newsom, who has fueded with legislative leaders who are pursuing their own gun control bills , did not attend the hearing, instead participating in a memorial service held for California Highway Patrol officers, a representative said.
Attorneys for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which co-wrote the initiative, told lawmakers it will plug serious loopholes in California’s tough gun laws.
“We believe reasonably that more can and should be done to protect California families and keep lethal weapons out of dangerous hands,” added Ari Freilich, a staff attorney at the center.
The initiative was criticized by Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Hanisee, president of the Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles, who predicted many people will not obey the new laws requiring them to get rid of high-capacity magazines.
The initiative “places additional burdens on an already overburdened court system,” she added.
None of the lawmakers at the hearing commited to endorsing the initiative.
Lawmakers raised questions about the cost of enforcing the initiative, but the Legislative Analyst’s Office said the bulk of costs may be recovered by fees authorized by the measure.
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