California Gov. Jerry Brown split the difference Friday on the pile of gun-control bills sitting on his desk, opting to sign five but veto seven, including a bill that would have banned the sale of many popular hunting rifles.
“The state of California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including bans on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines,” said Mr. Brown in his veto message. “While the author’s intent is to strengthen these restrictions, this bill goes much farther by banning any semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine.”
That measure, Senate Bill 374, was seen by gun-rights advocates as the worst of the bills passed this year by the Democrat-controlled state legislature, but California hunters didn’t dodge every bullet.
Among the bills signed by Mr. Brown was a measure to prohibit the use of lead ammunition for hunting, a proposal pushed by animal-rights and environmental groups but strongly opposed by outdoorsmen.
Sponsored by Democratic state Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, the ban is aimed at reducing the risk of lead exposure to endangered species and other wildlife, as well as humans who consume wild game shot with lead bullets.
“We are thrilled that Gov. Brown has made A.B. 711 the law of the land,” said Mr. Rendon in a statement. “There is simply no reason to continue using lead ammunition in hunting when it poses a significant risk to human health and the environment.”
Foes of the bill had argued that there was no evidence linking ammunition to incidents of lead poisoning in wildlife, saying that the elemental lead used in bullets is less toxic and soluble than the industrial lead used in manufacturing.
A coalition of labor leaders fought the bill, saying it would make it more difficult and expensive for Californians to participate in hunting and outdoor sports. The bill is scheduled to take effect in July 2019.
About 95 percent of the ammunition used by hunters in California contains lead. Many metallic bullets are banned by the federal government, and those that are available cost significantly more than lead bullets.
Mr. Brown, calling hunters and anglers “the original conservationists,” said in his signing statement that making the transition from lead to other types of ammunition “will allow them to continue the conservation heritage of California.”
The Democratic governor also signed a bill banning kits that convert ammunition magazines to hold more than 10 rounds, the legal limit in California. Another bill signed by Mr. Brown makes it a crime to leave a loaded gun in an area where it may be accessed by a minor without permission.
Among the bills vetoed was a measure that would have expanded the definition of an illegal shotgun, and another that would have added some drug and alcohol misdemeanors to the list of crimes that rule out gun ownership.
Chuck Michel, the NRA’s attorney in California, praised the veto of S.B. 374, but didn’t rule out the possibility of legal action against other measures signed by the governor. The NRA had announced it would file a lawsuit if the governor signed S.B. 374.
“We appreciate that the Governor has respected the rights of California gun owners by vetoing many of the anti-gun bills on his desk,” said Mr. Michel in a statement. “We are taking a close look at the bills that he did sign into law to determine which ones warrant legal action.”
As many as 18 bills passed by the state legislature were related to firearms, but the California Pistol and Rifle Association had urged a veto on only 12 of them.
Eight of the bills were packaged as the Lifesaving Intelligent Firearms Enforcement Act, proposed in reaction to the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 26 dead, including 20 children.
“Since the horrendous mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December, more than 1,100 Californians have been killed by continuing gun violence,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in a Friday statement. “I’m very disappointed that with the veto of S.B. 374, we have missed the opportunity to curb that violence and save more lives.”