A Latino legislator from Los Angeles is leading the crusade in California for tougher gun controls—including mental illness background checks—as lawmakers around the country mount similar campaigns in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre.
Sen. Kevin De Leon, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, wants an annual permit fee of up to $50 to pay for background checks for criminal records and mental illness, which has increasingly been linked to shooters in mass killings.
“They were mowed down,” he said of the slain children. “I think that viscerally it will give a lot of political officials around the country the political courage to do the right thing.”
“In honor of those victims and the thousands who have preceded them, we must not capitulate any longer. I, for one, have had it.”
His bill would require ammunition buyers in the nation’s most populous state to obtain a permit issued by the U.S. Department of Justice.
De Leon pushes for gun control, close loopholes in law
In California, De Leon and other gun control advocates are actually fighting to get enforcement of a strong weapons law already on the books but blocked in the courts by the politically powerful National Rifle Association.
In the State Senate, De Leon’s new gun control measure attempts to close what the courts said might be a loophole in the definition of gun ammunition sales that is part of landmark legislation blocked since 2010.
Gun owners buying ammunition on the Internet would have to collect the bullets at a gun store, where the permit would be required.
“For too long, too much ground has been ceded in this debate about reasonable gun and ammunition control,” says De Leon.
“We don’t think about the fuel that feeds the violence, and that’s ammunition. If you want to fish, you have to secure a license to fish.”
“If you want to cut down a Christmas tree in California—this is legally factual—you have to secure a permit at a cost of $10. Yet anyone who walks into any gun store in California can buy all the ammunition they want.”
The Latino lawmaker’s advocacy for tightening the state’s already strong gun control measures has been joined by attempts to impose a lifetime ban on gun ownership for anyone deemed by a court to be dangerous because of a mental disorder or illness.
The state’s current law allows someone with mental health issues to petition a court to allow them to possess a gun after treatment.
Video: Sen. Kevin De Leon on new gun control measure