California Considers Background Checks for Ammo Purchases

California would require ammunition buyers to pass an annual background check if lawmakers adopt a set of new gun-control measures in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead.

Eight bills to be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee today would ban high-capacity magazines and semi- automatic rifles with detachable magazines, as well as kits to modify semi-automatic rifles. The bills also would require ownership records for all types of guns and the background checks for ammunition sales.

Lawmakers in New York, Colorado, Connecticut and Maryland have passed laws limiting firearms ownership after the killings Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since the beginning of the year, state legislators across the U.S. have introduced more than 1,500 gun-related bills, according to the Washington-based Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for government transparency. Half of those bills would weaken gun-control laws.

A California Assembly Committee yesterday postponed consideration of a bill to tax ammunition 5 cents a round. The bill, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Sacramento Democrat, would use the tax revenue to expand screening for mental illness in children.

California lawmakers rejected similar ammunition taxes twice in the last decade. Opponents say that if ammunition buyers are held responsible for the actions of a small number of mentally disturbed people, then all other products that can be lethally used, such as gasoline and knives, should similarly be taxed.

California Ban

California passed the nation’s first assault-weapon ban in 1989 after a gunman with an AK-47 sprayed an elementary school in Stockton, killing five children and wounding 29. A federal ban passed in 1994 has since expired and efforts to restore it have so far stalled in Congress.

Another of the most deadly mass shootings in the U.S. occurred in California in 1984, when a gunman killed 21 people at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Diego.

California Republicans have put forward their own bills, such as raising penalties for gun crimes and for illegally buying, selling or possessing a firearm; state-supervised parole for those convicted, instead of county control; increased spending on a database of convicts, and limiting information about concealed-weapon permit holders that can be made public.

Republicans also want to extend court-ordered mental-health treatment from six months to one year and give counties more control over some mental-health funds.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael B. Marois in Sacramento at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at

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