SACRAMENTO — The Assembly on Thursday passed and sent to the governor's desk legislation aimed at tightening security at gun-making plants that produce so-called Saturday night specials.
Factories that manufacture most of the inexpensive weapons are in Southern California and are known as the Ring of Fire. Together, they produce 80% of the nation's inexpensive handguns.
Prompted by the thefts of thousands of weapons from one of the firms, AB 2188 by Assemblyman Jack Scott (D-Altadena) passed 43 to 21 with bipartisan support.
Gov. Pete Wilson has yet to review the bill and has not taken a position on it, a spokesman said, but Scott said he accepted suggestions from administration sources when drafting the measure.
Four Republicans joined majority Democrats in voting for the bill. Among them was Assemblyman Jim Cunneen of San Jose, who said he became a supporter when "minute, micro-managing sections" of the legislation were changed.
The measure mandates an array of security protections to prevent easy access to the plants. It also requires state licensing of the businesses and background checks of employees.
The bill underwent several changes after it was introduced earlier this year, making the requirements less onerous on manufacturers, Scott said. For example, the restrictions would not apply to makers of fewer than 100 guns yearly.
The worst of two known thefts from Ring of Fire firms was uncovered by federal agents in 1994.
Scott said that as many as 14,000 guns were hauled off from Lorcin Engineering in Mira Loma over a period of months before the thefts were discovered. Thieves simply carried crates of new weapons from the loading docks to their cars, evidence showed.
The weapons disappeared into the illegal gun market, many of them untraceable because the thefts occurred before the guns were stamped with a serial number.
Four people were convicted in the Lorcin thefts, but the lax security at that plant and at Bryco Arms of Costa Mesa, where at least 39 guns disappeared about the same time, made it imperative for the state to step in and shore up security, Scott said.
Eventually, said the assemblyman--an avid gun control advocate--the bill picked up added support from law enforcement and other groups. The Ring of Fire gun-makers themselves ultimately dropped their opposition, he said.
State Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, who opposes the bill, said it is unnecessary because of federal regulations already in place governing the manufacture of firearms.
Scott said he replied to Lungren that the federal rules did not go far enough, as shown by the ease with which the thefts were carried out in the Southland.
The assemblyman said the attorney general opposes the bill because "it increases the workload" of his department.
Registration, licensing and background checks would be conducted by the state Department of Justice under Scott's measure.