California has passed some of the nation’s most sensible gun rules and regulations, helping keep the rate of gun deaths here lower than in most states. That’s why gun legislation here is closely watched across the nation.
That’s one good reason to vote yes on Proposition 63. Another is that it rights a wrong committed by Proposition 47 two years ago.
Kind-hearted voters bought into Prop 47’s wrongheaded promises to make our communities safer by sending low-level convicted felons from state prisons to county jails. It doesn’t work, but there are other, less obvious, problems with Prop 47.
The law reclassified which crimes qualified as felonies, including property theft. Now, the value of stolen property must exceed $950 before becoming anything other than a misdemeanor. As law enforcement pointed out at the time, most handguns don’t reach that $950 threshold. They also pointed out that most thieves steal guns so they can use them in committing more serious crimes. Duh.
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Proposition 63 will make firearm theft a felony, regardless of the gun’s value. That’s reason enough to pass Prop 63, mainly because the legislature doesn’t seem inclined to act. Last year, Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced tried to write legislation to right this very thing, but it failed. We can do it as voters on Nov. 8.
Interestingly, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is the most forceful proponent of Proposition 63, but was also one of the backers of Prop 47.
The real aim of Proposition 63 isn’t fixing the gun-theft problem, it’s getting rid of high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring some who buy bullets to pass background checks. As Newsom told our editorial board, it isn’t the guns that kill people – it’s the bullets. It would also limit who can sell bullets.
Newsom’s initiative also would require gun owners to inform law enforcement if their firearms are lost or stolen, and vendors to report lost or stolen ammunition. It would require judges to tell those convicted of some crimes that they must turn over their weapons.
Legislation approved this year overlaps with Proposition 63’s most far-reaching provision – regulating ammunition sales by ensuring only individuals who are legally entitled to own guns can buy bullets. Another bill signed into law bans possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, similar to a provision in the initiative.
Gun-related violence still accounts for 70 percent of homicides in California and nationally, and more than half of all suicides, about 20,000 a year. So even in California, much remains to be done.
Obviously, pro-gun groups dislike Proposition 63. And virtually everywhere except California, they’re used to getting their way. A defeat of Prop 63 would reverberate nationally, emboldening such groups in their fight against sensible rules and regulations. We shouldn’t let that happen.
The National Rifle Association and similar organizations make it too hard for Congress and other states – despite overwhelming popular support in the polls – to follow California’s lead in passing sensible rules. We would prefer not to give the NRA more ammunition; vote in favor of Proposition 63.