It was a busy week for gun control this week in Sacramento, as two bills were approved at Tuesday’s Assembly Public Safety Committee meeting.
State Senator Kevin De Leon’s (D-Los Angeles) Senate Bill 124 was approved by a 4-2 vote in the committee, and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino’s (D-La Canada Flintridge) AB 144 was also approved. The two bills aim to reinforce the state’s ban on “cop-killer” bullets and ban the practice of the open carry of unloaded firearms in public places respectively.
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously on April 8 to support SB 124, which would protect California’s ban on “cop-killer” bullets.
“Working with Los Angeles’ top law enforcement leadership, I introduced SB 124 to protect our law enforcement officers, who, every day must face danger while they protect the citizens of our state and our communities,” De Leon said. “Thank you to the Los Angeles City Council for recognizing the need to protect our law enforcement personnel from harm and keep handgun ammo, more importantly the ‘cop-killer’ bullets, out of the hands of criminals.”
The bill is designed to clarify the definition of handgun ammunition in the state’s Penal Code to make certain no lawsuits can invalidate the state’s ban on “cop-killer” bullets. In the current language, the definition of “cop killer” bullets is being “primarily designed” to penetrate metal or body armor.
A recent lawsuit brought on by the National Rifle Association (NRA) challenged the ban on the bullets by questioning the legal definition of ammunition. The judge presiding over the NRA’s lawsuit ruled that definition to be vague. SB 124 would eliminate the word “primarily,” and simply refer to bullets designed to penetrate metal and armor as “cop-killer” bullets.
“The new language renders the opposition’s concerns mute,” said Alfredo Median, legislative consultant for De Leon.
Portantino’s bill, AB 144, was also approved at the Public Safety Committee meeting. The bill aims to close a loophole in the state’s current state law that allows for people to openly carry firearms in public places as long as the gun is not loaded. If the bill becomes law, it would be illegal to carry an unloaded gun in any public place or street. Law enforcement personnel, hunters, and others carrying unloaded weapons under specified licensed circumstances would be exempt.
“This is a sensible gun ban that law enforcement asked me to carry to make our streets and communities safer,” Portantino said. “I think most Californians would agree that they don’t want people walking around in parks or in coffee shops with a gun strapped to their hip. Whether it’s loaded or not, it creates some very real public safety issues.”
In January, City Council President Eric Garcetti, (13th District), also introduced a motion to ban the open carry of firearms in the city. The motion was filed as backup to Portantino’s AB 144 in case it hit any road blocks along the way.
“The open carry of a handgun can be intimidating and threaten public safety,” Garcetti said. “This is common sense, no one needs a gun on their hip when walking down the street or going to the store.”
Portantino’s bill has faced opposition from various open carry groups around the city, particularly South Bay Open Carry, which has held frequent dinner events to exercise their right to open carry.
Suzanne Verge, president of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence Los Angeles Chapter, has been protesting these dinners and was thrilled AB 144 passed through the committee stage.
“It’s a very big step,” Verge said. “We know that getting through the Public Safety Committee was a big hurdle and now that it has passed, it starts the momentum to get it through the Assembly.”
The two bills will go through the Appropriation Committee to be heard by the end of the month and, if passed, go to the Senate floor.
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