Bill calls for tracking of large-capacity weapon magazines
By Steven Harmon
MediaNews Sacramento Bureau
Posted: 03/25/2009 05
07 PM PDT
SACRAMENTO — Ammunition magazines with a capacity of 10 rounds or more — the kind that Oakland parolee Lovelle Mixon used to kill two of four police officers — would fall under a stricter tracking system under legislation proposed Wednesday by two East Bay lawmakers.
Law enforcement officials currently have few tools to keep the dangerous ammunition devices out of the hands of criminals, said Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, the author of the bill.
"This horrible tragedy will pinpoint for us some of the holes in our gun laws," said Hancock, a member of the Senate Public Safety Committee. "There are a number of lessons from this, and I'm prepared to learn them all. We may need to have a hearing on the status of gun control. I'm very committed to looking at this."
Assault weapons have been banned in California since 1999, and owners who possessed them before the ban are required to register their weapons. But large-capacity magazines are not required to be registered — because it was previously impossible to stamp serial numbers on them. Technology is now available to imprint serials on the magazines and enable law enforcement to track them through a registration system, Hancock said.
Mixon set off one of the deadliest police shootings in California history after he shot two officers with a handgun shortly after being pulled over Saturday in what had been described as a routine traffic stop.
Mixon fled to his sister's apartment and shot two more officers — this time with an assault weapon — before being tracked down and killed in an exchange of gunfire.
All told, five officers were shot. One was not seriously hurt, but four were killed.
The large-capacity magazines make firearms — particularly assault weapons — that much more of a threat because of the ability of shooters to fire more than 10 rounds without reloading.
"At a time like this, it's important to find out what's not working," said Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, a co-author of the legislation. "This could be the beginning of a new era of urban conflict. It's an important warning sign to prepare ourselves for future conflicts that could expose officers and our community to extreme dangers. It's very sobering. We have a clear responsibility to start taking action."
The officers' slayings have also fueled debate on issues such as flaws in the state's parole system. U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., has also said that Congress needs to reopen the debate on the assault weapon ban, which President George W. Bush allowed to lapse.
Reach Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101 or firstname.lastname@example.org