Next week, the Legislature will have the chance to do what it failed to do in 1989--comprehensively and effectively ban assault guns, the most indiscriminate and destructive of firearms.
State Senate passage of a sweeping new ban last week threw the measure back to the Assembly for a final vote, now set for next Monday. The bill is by Assemblyman Don Perata. The Alameda Democrat's determined effort to find a responsible and enforceable way to regulate these guns leaves those who continue to oppose the bill with considerable explaining to do.
The measure includes a generic definition of military-style firearms, focusing on semiautomatic weapons that can be concealed easily, such as those with a folding stock, and can fire large numbers of bullets in rapid succession. The bill would ban the sale of semiautomatic pistols that can hold more than 19 rounds and semiautomatic rifles with the capacity for more than 10 rounds. People who own these guns would have six months to register them or face criminal sanctions.
Perata's bill improves on California's nine-year-old assault gun ban, key provisions of which were struck down earlier this month by a state appellate court. That ban targeted specific makes and models of assault guns, which allowed manufacturers to evade the law by making only minor, often cosmetic changes in their products.
Perata's bill would also go further than the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, outlawing in California the sale of some foreign-made guns that are permitted under federal law.
Because some lawmakers are still on the fence, it bears repeating that these guns serve no legitimate sporting or hunting purpose. They excel only at causing instantaneous, widespread injury and death. Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, who in past years said he wanted a generic ban, now inexplicably says he is opposed to this one.
Gov. Pete Wilson should speak out now, urge the Legislature to finally pass the measure and then sign it into law. This bill is an important step toward greater public safety and sanity.