The California Senate on Thursday passed a sweeping package of gun control bills that would require background checks for ammunition purchasers, ban possession of high-capacity magazines and establish a firearms violence research center.
The bills, whose passage through the Assembly are far from assured, are at the heart of a political duel between Senate leader Kevin de Leon and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, both Democrats, who are proposing competing plans in advance of key election campaigns.
“Gun violence has reached epidemic proportions across our nation,” de Leon, who represents Los Angeles, said as he introduced the bills on the Senate floor on Thursday. “We cannot stand by while our communities suffer from this horrific violence.”
The package of eight bills would ban the possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, make stealing a gun a felony, limit the lending of guns among family members, and close a loophole in the state’s assault weapons ban.
It is uncertain whether the bills will pass the Assembly, where Republicans and conservative Democrats have blocked some of the same measures in the past, or be signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who has vetoed some gun control measures.
The Senate bills were fast-tracked through the legislature this week, even as state officials are counting signatures and preparing to place on the November ballot a referendum by Newsom that would accomplish many of the same goals.
The competing measures are a sore point between the two powerful politicians that could spill into the November election campaign as well as the race to replace Brown in 2018.
De Leon, who said Thursday that Newsom based his ballot initiative on de Leon’s own proposals, has asked the lieutenant governor to agree to withdraw his ballot measure should the Senate bills pass.
But Newsom, who is running for governor, has refused. His campaign strategist, Dan Newman, said Thursday that the initiative was more comprehensive than the legislative package and should go before voters in the fall.
Newsom is expected to make the gun control initiative a centerpiece of his campaign to replace Brown in 2018, along with a proposed referendum to legalize recreational use of marijuana.
De Leon has not endorsed Newsom. He is close to possible Newsom rivals in the governor’s race, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.