A new bill that has already passed the California Assembly would prohibit the sale of handguns in the state that did not incorporate user-ID technology that currently is not available on any handgun models, making it a de facto handgun ban, according to firearms proponents.
The measure, AB 1219, was originally introduced by Democratic Assemblymen Dario Frommer, of California’s 43rd District, and Democrat Paul Koretz, of the 42nd district, which encompasses West Hollywood.
The measure, passed last Friday by a 44-29 majority, now moves to the Senate where, some analysts say, its chances of passage are even greater.
The bill, according to its text, would prohibit the sale of any new handgun by licensed dealers “unless that firearm includes an integrated mechanical safety device or other incorporated design technology that is designed to prevent children and other unauthorized users from discharging the handgun, as specified,” by Jan. 1, 2006.
New handguns would have to incorporate technology that identifies and only works for owners, such as fingerprint and other biometric technology, or by radio signal device.
“Integrated mechanical safety device,” the bill says, “means a disabling or locking device that is incorporated within the design of a” handgun, “… and as part of its original manufacture, technology that automatically limits its operational use, and that cannot be readily deactivated, so that it may only be fired by an authorized or recognized user.”
“The technology limiting the operational use of [handgun] may include, but is not limited to, radio tagging, touch memory, remote control, fingerprint, magnetic encoding and other automatic user identification systems using biometrics, mechanical and electronic systems,” the bill says.
However, opponents of the bill say those requirements will amount to a de facto handgun ban in California because the technology is not currently available on new handguns and may not be in time for the bill to take effect.
Market forces so far, analysts say, have compelled most gun makers to forego incorporating such technology into their products, choosing instead to sell them with so-called “trigger lock” devices that are key-controlled and can be easily installed or discarded, depending on the owner’s preference.
Bill supporters, however, say the measure will increase safety in the state and reduce the amount of illegal activity involving handguns, and they say that the technology is already “out there.”
“The technology is probably not affordable yet, which is probably why it is not widespread,” said Scott Svonkin, chief of staff to Koretz. “But the assemblyman said he finds himself in a unique place, because he finds himself on the same side as Smith and Wesson, and the rest of the industry is far behind.”
Even if the new gun identification technology is still not being implemented widely in five years because of market opposition or cost, Svonkin said his boss would not support a repeal of the law or granting an extension.
“The fact is, this is not much different than the automakers,” Svonkin said. “The state of California required automakers to make cleaner-burning cars that got better mileage. And it’s not like the technology doesn’t exist. It’s just a matter of do [gunmakers] have the will to produce it in large enough volumes” that it becomes affordable.
Opponents say the technology may factually “exist,” but so far is unproven and, thus, risky.
“The technology required by this bill is still in development. Its long-term durability and practicality is unknown,” said Brian Puckett, founder and director of Citizens of America, a California-based national gun rights group.
“In any case, requiring guns to incorporate extraneous and potentially unreliable gadgetry is a clear infringement of the Second Amendment,” he added. “The ultimate goal of the Democratic Party and ‘moderate’ Republicans is to disarm Americans by whatever means possible, and this absurd bill makes that goal clear.”
Though not likely because of the state’s burgeoning population, gun makers could choose to avoid selling new handguns in California if they either did not believe in the new technologies or simply did not want to comply with the California law.
Some have suggested that would amount to a de facto gun ban, but Svonkin disagreed.
“It wouldn’t be a ban, because the state wouldn’t be doing anything to prevent them from importing their products,” he said. “It would be a self-imposed ban. But if the industry were to give up the California market, [Koretz] wouldn’t have a problem with that, because … there are so many guns in California” already.
Such actions by gunmakers “would just promote the resale market,” he said.
Some analyses of the new bill claim it would also prevent the resale of “older technology guns” between individuals if the gun did not incorporate some element of the technologies called for in AB 1219, but Svonkin denied that.
“I have not seen that language” in the bill, he told WorldNetDaily. “My understanding is that [the bill] involves the sale of new guns.”
He explained that other elements of California law governing the sale of guns between individuals would not change or be affected by AB 1219, such as a law that “requires people to get a firearms dealer license” if they sell more than a certain number of guns each year.
Svonkin said he didn’t know how many guns sold by an individual would trigger that requirement.
He also said the Senate may not need to develop its own bill because, under California’s legislative system, the bill could “just go through the [appropriate Senate] committees and come back.”
“If there are no changes on the Senate side, then it goes straight to the governor’s desk,” he said. “If there are changes, then the Assembly would have to concur and then it would go to the governor.”
Assemblyman Frommer’s office did not return phone calls by press time.
Meanwhile, other legislation regulating the purchase of guns are also being considered by state lawmakers.
Separate bills that would compel gun buyers to take written and hands-on tests to demonstrate competency and proficiency in firearms usage, all under the supervision of certified instructors, also passed last week in the Assembly and Senate.
Many of the provisions in the bills, AB 35 and SB 52, were opposed by Gov. Gray Davis last year, the Sacramento Bee reported Friday. But Roger Salazar, Davis’ spokesman, told the paper the governor had not yet formed an opinion on either one this year.
The governor would prefer to give previous gun-control measures a chance to be evaluated before approving new ones, Salazar said, but “he hasn’t closed the door on this legislation,” Salazar said, as quoted by the paper.
Gun rights proponents say the more gun control legislation that is passed, the easier it makes a criminal’s work.
“Every day that the Democrats continue their war on our right of self-defense, citizens disarmed by their previous gun control edicts are killed, raped or mutilated by criminals,” Puckett said.