"These bills attempt to respond to those well-publicized tragedies… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers Wednesday advanced a dozen gun-control measures, including background checks for ammunition buyers, and gave early approval to a tax penalty on the Boy Scouts for barring openly gay leaders.
Legislators also voted for a new $75 charge on real estate transactions to pay for affordable-housing projects.
Mass shootings such as the one in Newtown, Conn., in December spurred Democratic lawmakers to look for ways to tighten California's gun laws, already some of the toughest in the nation.
"We all can recite the horrific acts that have occurred in our country over the last year," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). "These bills attempt to respond to those well-publicized tragedies and many more that go unpublicized."
Californians who want to buy ammunition would have to submit personal information and a $50 fee for a background check by the state, under a bill passed by the Senate. The state Department of Justice would determine whether buyers have a criminal record, severe mental illness or a restraining order that would disqualify them from owning guns.
Ammo shops would check the name on buyers' driver's licenses against a state list of qualified purchasers.
The goal of the bill is "to ensure that criminals and other dangerous individuals cannot purchase ammunition in the state of California," said Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), author of SB 53.
The vote was 22-14, with a few Democrats joining the Republican minority in opposition.
Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said, "We are criminalizing legal, historic behavior in the state of California and putting onerous burdens and regulations and requirements on law-abiding citizens."
The Senate also OK'd a bill that would outlaw the sale, purchase and manufacture in California of semiautomatic rifles that can accommodate detachable magazines. The measure, SB 374 by Steinberg, also would require those who own such weapons to register them with the state.
The Assembly joined the action on guns by passing a measure to require the state Department of Justice to notify local law enforcement agencies when someone buys more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition. The bill would also ban kits that convert magazines to carry more than 10 rounds and would extend a ban on gun ownership for anyone who conveys a serious threat of violence to a licensed psychotherapist.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), who authored the bill, AB 48, said mass shooters often "have a mental health history."
The legislation approved in the Assembly on Wednesday now goes to the Senate and vice versa.
Senators on Wednesday voted to strip tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups, including the Boy Scouts of America, that deny participation based on sexual orientation or religion.
Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said he was glad the Boy Scouts' national council recently decided to allow openly gay minors to serve as scouts. But he said it was unacceptable that the organization did not also lift its ban on gays serving as adult leaders.
"We've given the Boy Scouts ample time to solve their discrimination problem, and they have chosen a path that still leads to discrimination," Lara told his colleagues.
Some Republicans voted against the bill, SB 323, which would eliminate nonprofit youth groups' exemption from state sales, use and corporate taxes if the organizations discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said the organization remains committed to serving the 180,000 scouts in California.
"Today, more than ever, youth need the character and leadership programs of scouting," he said in an email after the vote. "We are disappointed with anything that impacts our ability to serve more youth."
Republicans also opposed a bill that would impose the $75 charge on the recording of many real estate documents. Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said his bill, SB 391, would raise up to $720 million annually to replace money lost for affordable housing when redevelopment projects were disbanded.
Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) voted against it, saying the bill would hurt the working-class people it is intended to help.
Other bills approved in one house Wednesday would:
• Allow those who may be in the country illegally to obtain a California driver's license if they can provide documents to establish their identity and residency in the state.
Require the state to develop restrictions on an oil production technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
• Shift $600 million in bond authority from a little-used home loan service for military veterans to other programs that could help provide them with affordable housing and counseling services.