California bill would ban conversion kits for automatic weapons

Reuters

By Sharon Bernstein

SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - California lawmakers on Wednesday voted to ban kits used to convert standard firearms into semi-automatics capable of firing more than 10 rounds of ammunition without reloading, although a stricter gun control measure was stalled.

The conversion kit ban, one of a number of gun control bills making their way through the legislature in the waning days of the session, also prohibits the purchase of large capacity magazines in the state.

"Now, legally you can buy and you can sell conversion kits that allow you to convert conventional magazines so they can shoot many more than 10 rounds without reloading," said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, who sponsored the bill.

Passage has not been easy for the more than a dozen gun control bills introduced by Democratic lawmakers in the wake of several mass-shootings, including the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year.

Even so, the state has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. An assault weapons ban has been in place since 1989, passed after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Stockton.

California Democrats control large majorities in both houses as well as the governorship. But many lawmakers owe their jobs to moderate and conservative voters in rural counties, and are hesitant to take on hot-button issues like firearm regulation.

The bill banning conversion kits, for example, passed only after a provision requiring a database to track sales of ammunition in the state was removed.

It passed on a vote of 43 to 30, with five Democrats joining the Assembly's 25 Republicans in opposition. The Senate had passed it earlier and it will now go to Governor Jerry Brown, who has not said that he will sign it.

Another measure, to ban repeat drug and alcohol offenders, as well as people who commit some gang-related crimes, from gun ownership for ten years passed on a vote of 42 to 27.

On Tuesday, lawmakers voted to ban new sales of semi-automatic rifles with removable magazines and to require people who already own such weapons to register them.

A measure that would ban possession of large capacity ammunition magazines in the state was held up while supporters lobbied for votes.

Republicans continued their opposition to the gun control measures on Wednesday, voting against them as a bloc and warning that the measures are threats to the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who represents the Southern California community of Twin Peaks, said the bill banning conversion kits would wrongly target people who had innocently purchased equipment that might or might not be used to modify a weapon.

"Certainly we don't want to throw people in jail because they bought a couple of little springs and a few boxes of metal," he said.

(This story corrects the date of vote to Wednesday in the first paragraph)

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Jackie Frank)

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