California seeks to adopt toughest US gun laws

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) - Weeks after New York enacted America's toughest gun laws, California lawmakers said on Thursday that they want their state to do even more in response to recent mass shootings, particularly the Connecticut school massacre.

Democrats who control the state Legislature revealed 10 bills that they said would make California the most restrictive state for possessing firearms. They were joined at a Capitol news conference by the mayors of Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"California has always been a leader on the issue of gun safety," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "New York has stepped up and stepped forward. California needs to answer the call."

Among the bills is one that would outlaw the future sale of semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines - a restriction that would prevent an assailant from quickly reloading. Lawmakers also want to make some prohibitions apply to current gun owners, not just to people who buy weapons in the future.

Like New York, California also would require background checks for buying ammunition and would add to the list of prohibited weapons.

Those buying ammunition would have to pay a fee and undergo an initial background check by the Department of Justice, similar to what is required now before buyers can purchase a weapon. Subsequent background checks would be done instantly by an ammunition seller checking the Justice Department's records.

The measures also would ban possession of magazines holding more than 10 bullets, even by those who now own them legally. All weapons would have to be registered.

The bills are the most stringent to date among numerous proposals introduced this year to strengthen California's firearm regulations.

Mr Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, promised that gun proponents will fight the measures in court if they become law.

"It strikes me as if these folks are playing some sort of game of one-upsmanship with New York at the expense of law-abiding citizens, and that's just unconscionable," he said about lawmakers.

In Washington, the Obama administration and Democrats are trying to push several gun control measures through Congress in the wake of the shooting of 26 people, including 20 children, at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December.

The Democrats want to bar assault weapons and high-capacity magazines carrying more than 10 rounds of ammunition, require background checks for all gun sales and prohibit gun trafficking, all of which President Barack Obama proposed last month.

The powerful National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress are fiercely opposed to any limits on guns and ammunition, though expanding background checks could be more politically feasible.