California announced it will pioneer the US’ harshest gun control laws a week after New York claimed the accolade. The legislation comes after a wave of fatal shootings and has been criticized by opposition as a game of ‘one-upmanship’ with New York.
Among the most significant prohibitions imposed by the new legislation is the ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles.
- A ban on high-capacity magazines, prohibiting those that hold over 10 rounds of ammunition. The sale of such magazines was outlawed in the state back in 2000, but possession is still legal.
- Comprehensive background checks for buying ammunition. Gun users will also be obliged to obtain an annual safety certificate which requires them to take courses in gun use and safety.
- A ban on the sale and loan of firearms between people who know each other personally.
- Compulsory insurance to provide for any possible damage they may cause with the firearm.
- A 5 per cent tax to be applied to each bullet, to be donated to policing in crime areas or screening treatment for children.
- Mandatory registration for ammunition sellers.
The new legislation, consisting of 10 different proposals, will dramatically crack down on gun use and ownership, making California the most restrictive state in the US.
"California has always been a leader on the issue of gun safety," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said to AP. "New York has stepped up and stepped forward. California needs to answer the call."
President of the California State Senate Darrel Steinberg said that time had run out for the savvy gun industry, which he described as “very adept at exploiting the fine print and finding ways to get around the letter of the law."
“The time is now to close those loopholes in the circulation, in regulation and in the education relating to guns and to gun ownership," said Steinberg.
The measures are the most stringent ever to be proposed in the state and have been slammed by gun-rights advocates as unconstitutional and ineffective at reducing gun-related violence.
"This is off the charts, and none of these laws that are being proposed will prevent crime or solve crime," said Sam Paredes, executive director of the Gun Owners of California. He added that lawmakers were engaging in a game of “one-upmanship with New York at the expense of law-abiding citizens, and that's just unconscionable."
Paredes suggested that legislation would be put to better use increasing the funding of the courts and the Department of Justice to make sure firearms do not find their way into the hands of the mentally ill.
"Nothing has gone to unify the pro-gun community, the pro-Second Amendment community more than the attacks that we are facing," he said, stressing it was the worst attack in the history of California and maybe of the US.
The California legislation follows nationwide proposals released by House Democrats on Thursday that closely mirror Barack Obama’s plan.
The measures will include broader background checks and bans on military-style semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Their 15-point plan also calls for closing loopholes in the country’s mental health system.
However, unlike the California State Legislature, where Democrats hold strong majorities in both houses, Democrats are in the minority in the US Congress, making nationwide gun reform a far more contentious affair.
The recent push in the tightening of anti-gun legislation comes after a spate of fatal shootings across the US.
The most recent happened in Connecticut in December when a gunmen opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 first-graders and six teachers. The shooting sparked national outcry, reigniting the national gun-violence debate.