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The recent shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin have renewed the debate on how – and if – gun control laws should be changed, but one California lawmaker’s attempt to respond to tragedy has fallen short.
A new bill from State Senator Leland Yee aimed at restricting assault weapons in California stopped short in the Assembly Appropriations Committee yesterday and won’t be revived until the next legislative session – if at all.
The bill, SB249, would ban devices that allow magazines of ammunition to be reloaded so quickly that semiautomatic firearms can be fired almost like assault weapons, reports Jim Sanders in The Sacramento Bee, and Yee said he intends to see the proposal through.
"My greatest fear is that another senseless act of violence will happen before the loophole is closed," Yee said in a prepared statement. "Despite the gun lobby's efforts to derail common-sense legislation, I will not give up this fight."
Creating legislation in response to instances of unexpected tragedy is fairly common: For instance, the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 led to a dramatic change in federal gun control laws with the enactment of the Brady Act.
But other efforts have been less successful. After the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords last year, federal lawmakers proposed new laws prohibiting the manufacture of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and banning the possession of a weapon within 1,000 feet of elected officials. The former bill is still working its way through congress, and the latter never got off the ground.
And, the shooting at Virginia Tech in 1997 spurred the State General Assembly to allow colleges to restrict carrying weapons on to campuses despite open-carry laws.
But, is creating new legislation the answer? Is it helpful in preventing additional, similar crimes or does it create unnecessary restrictions on law-abiding gun owners?
Some say gun control laws should remain untouched, despite recent tragic events, because policy change is a different conversation.
Brian Dogherty writes in Hit and Run on reason.com that “[T]urning the (still) very rare criminal and evil uses of guns to indiscriminately harm innocents into a reason for policy change doesn't work that well in America any more, and it shouldn't, and it likely won't now.”
But gun control advocates, like Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-New York), say tragedy can be prevented by tighter regulation of who can obtain weapons and what kind.
“We need comprehensive reform to reduce the number of people hurt or killed by gunfire in America, but one simple way we can do that is by keeping the worst tools of mass murder away from the general public,” McCarthy said.
Dogherty suggests that, whatever the motive for committing crime, it can’t be explained away with policy.
“The endless and unmanageable mystery of the individual's power and choice to do evil is what's at play, and there aren't many explanations of that of policy relevance,” Dogherty writes.
How do you feel about gun control laws in California? Is there a need to tighten them? Share your opinion with our poll, and by commenting in the section below.
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