Story by the Associated Press; curated by Dave Urbanski
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Friday that would have imposed the nation's toughest restrictions on gun ownership, saying it was too far-reaching.
"I don't believe that this bill's blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners' rights," the Democratic governor wrote in his veto message.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (Credit: AP)
The legislation would have banned future sales of most semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines, part of a firearms package approved by state lawmakers in response to mass shootings in other states.
It was lawmakers' latest attempt to close loopholes that have allowed manufacturers to work around previous assault weapon bans. Gun rights groups had threatened to sue if the semi-automatic weapons ban became law.
Brown also noted that California already has some of the nation's strictest gun and ammunition laws.
The legislation was among 17 gun bills considered by the governor as he works toward a Sunday deadline to act on bills sent to his desk last month. He signed 10 firearms bills into law while vetoing seven.
Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who proposed the rifle restrictions, said in a statement that more than 1,100 Californians have been killed with guns since the mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December.
"I believe aggressive action is precisely what's needed to reduce the carnage in our communities, and to counter the equally aggressive action by the gun industry," Steinberg said.
California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, second from left, gestures to a pair of semi-automatic rifles as he discusses a package of proposed gun control legislation at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Steinbergs's SB374 which would have banned future sales of most semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines, Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. (Credit: AP)
Paul Song, executive chairman of the Courage Campaign, an advocacy organization that supported the gun bills, said in a telephone interview that Brown appeared to be trying to defuse a possible campaign issue as he runs for re-election next year. The organization later released a much stronger statement accusing the governor of "cowardly behavior" and saying he "will have blood on his hands."
Brown objected to the bill banning the sale of future semi-automatic weapons with detachable magazines because he says it also would have applied to low-capacity weapons commonly used for hunting, firearms training and target shooting, and some historical and collectible firearms. Brown also didn't want thousands of legal gun owners to have to register their existing weapons as assault rifles and be blocked from selling or transferring the weapons.
"That was, without a doubt, the most egregious piece of anti-gun legislation ever brought to a governor for his signature," said Clint Montfort, an attorney with Michel and Associates, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association.
"We appreciate that the governor has respected the rights of California gun owners."
Montfort said the NRA is examining the bills that Brown did sign into law to see if any merit legal challenges.
The governor signed a measure from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which bans kits that allow people to turn regular ammunition magazines into high-capacity magazines, as well as two other pieces of legislation that restrict the ability of mentally ill people to possess firearms.
But Brown rejected a bill that would have required owners whose firearms are lost or stolen to promptly notify law enforcement. The governor noted he vetoed a similar bill last year and still doubts that criminalizing the failure to report missing weapons would help law enforcement track down gun traffickers or those prohibited from owning weapons.