- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 15, 2015

With 300 million firearms in circulation and calls for more restrictions hitting a wall, Democrats and gun control advocates from California to Virginia are increasingly turning to other proposals such as restricting ammunition and magazine rounds and narrowing the ability to wield weapons.

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2018, released a statewide ballot campaign Thursday to require background checks for ammunition purchases.

“Why is it that we have background checks for guns but not background checks for ammunition? It makes no sense,” Mr. Newsom said at his press conference in San Francisco.

“California can set the tone for the rest of the nation with these common-sense public safety provisions,” he said. “We will lead the nation. We’ll be the only state in America that has background checks on point-of-sale purchases of ammunition.”

The proposed 2016 initiative would require instant background checks at the point of sale and ban the possession of ammunition magazines with over 10 rounds. Given that California already bans the sale and manufacture of magazines over 10 rounds, the proposal would give California the toughest ammo restrictions in the nation.

New York also requires instant ammunition background checks as part of its 2013 SAFE Act, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, suspended the provision in July, citing an inadequate state database.

“New York tried. California will be the first to do it,” said Mr. Newsom. “California will step up and step into this debate in a meaningful way. And I’ll say this to the NRA with all due respect that you can intimidate politicians — we’ve seen them. But you can’t intimidate the public. That’s why we’re bringing this directly to the public.”

Efforts to restrict ammunition may sound less alarming to the average voter than attempts to ban guns, but they’re no more acceptable to gun rights advocates, who vowed to fight the proposed California initiative.

“If Gavin Newsom wants to declare war on law-abiding gun owners and Second Amendment rights, we’re certainly going to bring the fight to him,” Firearms Policy Coalition President Brandon Combs said in a statement.

The Newsom measure also would require owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement, and would set up a process to confiscate firearms from illegal owners such as felons.

Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, said the effort to restrict ammunition sales represents another step in the march to erode the rights of law-abiding gun owners.

“California illustrates the true gun-control agenda, which is the ultimate confiscation and banning of firearms. If Gavin Newsom gets his way, the state will be the next Australia,” Ms. Hunter said in a statement.

“His ballot initiative proposal does nothing but prohibit access to the most effective methods for self-defense, with no measurable positive effect on stopping crime or improving public safety,” she said. “They can’t repeal the Second Amendment, so they’re trying to chip away our rights until there is nothing left.”

Also on Thursday, gun control advocates got a victory on the other side of the country as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed an executive order that bans the carrying of firearms in some state government buildings.

The order also sets up a joint task force to prosecute gun crimes, requires the tracing of every gun used in a crime and gives the attorney general power for more robust prosecution of gun crimes.

Democrats have intensified the call for more firearms restrictions in reaction to a spate of campus shootings. The worst was the Oct. 1 shooting that killed nine people in Roseburg, Oregon.

Jeffrey Zalles, president of the Brady Campaign’s chapter in Marin County, California, touched off a debate over the movement’s direction with an Oct. 6 op-ed in The Washington Post calling for “a focus on ammunition” instead of guns.

He called for requiring buyers to obtain licenses that show photo identification and stamping shell casings with serial numbers, which would make it more difficult for unlicensed buyers to obtain bullets.

“A focus on ammunition wouldn’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Instead, it would guarantee the protection of those rights — while saving many lives,” Mr. Zalles said.

Democrats clearly believe the public is ready for more limits on guns and ammunition. During the Democratic presidential primary debate Tuesday, candidates tried to outdo one another on their support for gun control, which conservative activist Grover Norquist described as a mistake.

Since 1987, he said, the number of concealed carry permits has shot up from zero to 12.8 million, or 6.6 percent of the adult population, heralding a sea change in the public’s view of firearms.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “insulted and picked a fight with millions of people, and she had no idea what she was doing,” said Mr. Norquist, who sits on the NRA board of directors.

He traced the idea of restricting ammunition as a way of reducing the number of firearms to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late Democratic senator from New York.

“Moynihan argued, ‘We don’t need to ban guns; we need to ban ammunition, because in 25 years, if you can’t buy ammunition, it goes bad,’” Mr. Norquist said. “He called for outlawing ammunition, which over time would make all guns irrelevant.”

Eight states have moved to limit magazine capacity, not always without consequence. In Colorado, a 2013 law restricting ammunition magazines to no more than 15 rounds prompted the recall of two Democratic state senators and an ongoing lawsuit filed by county sheriffs.

Mr. Newsom’s measure, which he proposed in concert with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, would need about 366,000 valid signatures from California voters to qualify for the ballot next year.

“The fact that I have to worry about who’s sitting behind me in a movie theater, or spending an afternoon with my kids at a shopping mall worried about someone who’s going to run out from behind a bush and gun people down, it’s insane,” Mr. Newsom said. “And it doesn’t have to be that way.”

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed but also vetoed a number of bills in recent years to restrict access to firearms and ammunition.

“It’s also important to note that none of what Newsom proposed today is new,” said Ms. Hunter. “These are all legislative efforts that have failed in California already.”

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