SACRAMENTO (AP) — Several California lawmakers reacted Monday to the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school by calling for new laws that they say are aimed at increasing safety, either through gun control or improved security at public schools.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced federal legislation that would ban new assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets to “take these dangerous weapons of war off our streets.”
State Sen. Leland Yee, meanwhile, said he will introduce a bill to close what he calls a loophole in the state’s ban on assault weapons and is considering changes to state gun laws on everything from background checks to storage regulations.
And state Sen. Ted Lieu announced plans to re-introduce legislation aimed at requiring schools to be better prepared for emergency situations, such as a gunman on the loose.
Yee, D-San Francisco, said he hopes the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 young children, will lead to greater support for revisiting California’s gun laws.
“We must reinstate the federal assault weapon ban and close the bullet button loophole that has severely weakened California’s assault weapon ban,” Yee said in a statement.
The so-called bullet button loophole allows gun manufacturers to sell weapons in California that can be quickly reloaded using a simple tool. The bullet buttons get around the state’s ban on detachable magazines that can be used to swiftly reload a rifle or shotgun.
Feinstein, a Democrat, said she and her staff have been working on gun control legislation for a year and that the plan will focus on “the most dangerous guns that have killed so many people over the years” while still protecting the rights of gun owners.
She said in a statement that she intends to announce the proposal on the first day of the new Congress and that she is in the process of gathering support.
Her remarks came a day after a Sunday night service in Newtown, where President Barack Obama vowed, without specifically addressing gun control, that in the coming weeks he would “use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
Friday’s attacks left 28 people dead, with the shooter and his mother among the eight adults killed, police say. Police say the gunman, Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of ammunition and used a high-powered rifle similar to the military’s M-16.
Lieu, D-Torrance, in calling for measures aimed at school security, said data from 2009 showed that more than half of public middle schools in Los Angeles either lacked a safety plan, had an outdated plan, or had failed to review the plans with staff.
Lieu’s legislation would impose stricter penalties for schools that fail to comply with state laws requiring them to have a robust emergency plan, including withholding funding. Schools that fail to comply also would be listed on a public website.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who signed on as a co-author, said in a statement that the Legislature “has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure basic safety requirements are enforced in our schools.”
He added that children’s safety “demands 100 percent compliance.”
Such Democratic-led efforts should find a more receptive audience in the California statehouse where the party secured a two-thirds majority in both houses in November for the first time in decades.
Yee attempted to pass gun control legislation earlier this year in the wake of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., but it died in the Assembly, and Lieu also had previously introduced the school safety legislation.
“Our response to Friday’s massacre and other senseless acts of gun violence throughout America must be comprehensive and address mental well-being, societal problems, and common sense gun control,” said Yee, who is a child psychologist.
Yee said that among the proposals he is considering are additional background checks, mental health evaluations, limits on the amount of ammunition that can be purchased and new regulations regarding weapon storage.
Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, backed Yee’s earlier legislation. She did not immediately take a position on Yee’s still unwritten proposal Monday, but her spokeswoman, Lynda Gledhill, said Harris supports “efforts to close dangerous loopholes in our assault weapons law.”
Groups such as the California Nurses Association and the California Medical Association also have supported stricter gun controls.
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