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article imageCalifornia tightens handgun restrictions; bans some models

By Megan Hamilton     Jul 22, 2014 in Politics
Sacramento - California already has some of the toughest gun laws on record. Now, a recent bill signed into law last Friday by Governor Jerry Brown has just tightened things up a little more, effectively closing a loophole created by an earlier law.
The new law bans the sale of single-shot handguns that can be modified into semi-automatic weapons, and this is a small victory for proponents of this law, Reuters reports.
Proponents battled to amend the state's handgun requirements, arguing that single-shot pistols had been exempted, meaning that dealers were selling thousands of modified weapons per year without a required safety feature that shows when a bullet is chambered.
"This is a significant step to protect the integrity of the safe handgun law in California," assemblyman Roger Dickinson, a Democrat and author of the bill, told Reuters. "This exception has been increasingly used by those who wish to circumvent the law."
The law goes into effect on January 1, 2015, according to a press release from Gov. Brown's office, per this article.
The new law specifies that handguns purchased through dealers in California must meet all safety and firing tests as mandated by the state's "Unsafe Handgun" law.
Under the current law, handguns sold and manufactured in California are required to be "safe" by the California Department of Justice. These guns must come with child safety features like loaded chamber indicators and magazine disconnects. They must also meet specified firing and drop safety tests, and contain microstamping technology that puts intentional marks on bullet casings to help solve gun crimes, the press release noted.
"Gun dealers in California have been skirting the law and selling handguns without child safety features, putting profits over the safety of Californians," Nick and Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chairs of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said in the statement. "We applaud Governor Brown and the California legislature for taking action to make new handguns sold in the state safer."
The new law, AB 1964 is another part of the long-standing national debate over just how far gun restrictions should go in the wake of deadly rampages in schools, movie theaters, and other public areas, according to Reuters.
The new law is not without its' critics.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees (CAL-FFL) both weighed in with criticisms. Both organizations said the law tramples constitutional rights.
"Sadly, the status quo for elitist Sacramento politicians is to ignore the Constitution and act with blatant hostility towards our Second Amendment civil rights and sound public policy," Brandon Combs, president of the CAL-FFL told Reuters.
The NRA claims that the measure hurts law-abiding citizens by "eliminating the only options for Californians to purchase numerous handguns that are commonly owned throughout the rest of the country."
In the early 1990s, when California's gun laws were weak and gap-ridden, and gun violence across the state escalated to unprecedented levels, according to The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. At one point, gun violence in California was 15 percent higher than the national average. Indeed, California was suffering an epidemic and the impact affected every community, from Redding to San Diego.
However,with the tightening of gun laws, statistics show that the number of people injured or killed by guns in California has decreased sharply, the Center reports. 5,500 Californians were killed by gunfire in 1993; by 2010 that number had dropped to 2,935.3. In just two decades, California's gun death rate has been cut by 56 percent, and this reduction means thousands of lives are saved each year, the Center reports.
Single-shot weapons had been exempted from the safety requirement in order to protect collectors of antique guns, and that's where the loophole came in, per Reuters. Dickinson said that the new law strives to protect antique single-shot weapons prized by collectors.
There are some exceptions in the new law, such as a single-shot pistol with a break top or bolt action, a barrel length of at least six inches, among other requirements, are some of the exceptions, and this is according to analysis on the state legislature's website, per Reuters.
While this may not put a stop to gun-related massacres such as the one in Isla Vista earlier this year, the law is an important step in keeping Californians safer.
More about California, singleshot handguns, Reuters, ab 1471, ab 1964
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