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Get the Lead Out
Redding Record-Searchlight, June 23, 2010

Assembly advances 'long gun' registration, ban on lead shot
By Ryan Sabalow

Bills that would ban lead shot in state wildlife areas and require registration of newly purchased rifles and shotguns passed the state Assembly on Thursday.

Both bills, which overwhelmingly passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly, drew the ire of local gun shops owners and state hunting and sporting groups.

“I doubt very seriously this is going to help in any way, shape or form to keep crime down,” Rich Howell, manager of Olde West Gun and Loan in Redding said Friday of AB 1810, the so-called “long gun” registration bill.

Authored by Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, the bill would require registration of rifles and shotguns so that a database can be kept for law enforcement purposes. It would be similar to the way handguns currently are tracked.

Under the current system, those who buy rifles and shotguns must go to a licensed firearms dealer. The dealer runs a background check on the buyer. If the new gun owner passes the background check, he or she must wait 10 days before they can take the gun home.

The records from that transaction are then destroyed.

“AB 1810 would stop the needless destruction of long gun records, which prevents law enforcement from using this information to quickly identify the owners of crime guns,” Feuer wrote in his arguments for the bill. “Without these records, law enforcement must painstakingly trace recovered firearms from the manufacturer, through the distributor, to the firearms dealer who sold the weapon.”

Opponents of the bill argue it will only make it harder for law-abiding gun owners to sell or transfer guns, will make them more expensive and will create more costs and hassles for gun dealers.

“If someone wants to hand down an old shotgun to their grandson, they’re now going to have to do some more paperwork,” said Mark Hennelly, vice president of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, a hunter and angler lobbying group opposed to the bill.

Hennelly argued that the law is unnecessary because handguns are used in most shootings. But Feuer countered that of the 26,682 crime guns entered into the state’s Automated Firearm System database in 2009, 11,500 were long guns.

AB 1810 passed on a 42-29, party-line vote, with north state Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, voting against the bill and Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, abstained from voting on the bill. Chesbro’s district includes Trinity County.

The other gun-related bill to pass the Assembly on Thursday was AB 2223, which would ban the use of lead shot in California’s 667,000-acre network of state-owned wildlife management areas.

Federal law banned the use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting in the early 1990s after studies showed that ducks and other waterfowl were being poisoned by lead from the pellets that fell back into the water supply after a missed shot. There also were worries predatory animals would consume lead by eating downed birds that had been shot but lost by hunters.

At most of the state’s wildlife areas, including a handful in the north state, hunters are allowed to use lead shot to hunt other small game like rabbit, quail, turkey, dove and pheasant.

The author of AB 1810, Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, argued that research showed both wetland and upland birds will ingest spent lead shot, creating the potential for devastating effects on these bird populations.

“The science is increasingly clear that lead shot poses a real danger to bird populations on these lands,” Nava said in a statement. “With viable alternatives to lead shot — this is just a no-brainer.”

Hennelly countered that the science behind the lead ban proposal was much less clear.

Hennelly said the Outdoor Heritage Alliance would have preferred that the California Fish and Game Commission, which sets hunting regulations based on scientific surveys, study the effects of lead at wildlife areas.

He said that would substitute a scientific process for a politically based one.

Redding Mayor Patrick Jones, owner of Jones’ Fort gun store in Redding, said most hunters would support a ban on lead shot in wildlife areas if there were scientific evidence that showed it was poisoning animals, something he doubts.

Instead, he said, all the ban will do is make hunting more expensive, because nontoxic steel or tungsten shotgun shells cost about twice as much as traditional lead shot.

The bill passed with a 47-29 vote. Nielsen voted against it, and Chesbro voted for it.

Thursday’s two gun bills come after the Assembly passed a bill Tuesday that would make it illegal to openly carry a gun in public, even if it is unloaded.

The so-called “open carry” ban would make it a misdemeanor to carry an exposed handgun on any public street or in a public place. The bill passed on a 41-25 party-line vote.

All the bills need to pass California’s Senate and be signed by the governor before becoming law.

Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, hasn’t read the bills yet. He generally opposes bills that restrict firearm rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment, spokesman Bill Bird said Friday.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton