Long-dormant gun-control bills resurrected in state legislatures

Consideration of measures on ownership, safety sparked by Colo. shootings


SEATTLE -- Just as the school shooting in Colorado last month has spurred Congress to the verge of approving measures like background checks for gun buyers and safety-lock devices for firearms, many state legislatures are passing gun-control laws as well, in some cases taking up measures that had long been considered unlikely to pass.

Late last month, the California Assembly passed a bill limiting handgun sales to one per person per month, a measure that had languished in past years.

Other measures restricting gun ownership are under way in Sacramento, with promises that Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat inaugurated in January, will sign them.

In other states, the gun-control measures moving forward include an Oregon plan to require criminal background checks for people buying firearms at gun shows and a bill that would make New Jersey the first state to require that within five years all handguns sold there have "smart-gun" features, allowing a gun to be used only by its registered owner. That bill has been voted out of a Senate committee.

In Connecticut, lawmakers are supporting a measure that would allow the police to get a warrant to enter a residence and take the guns of a person who might injure himself or others.

Just as striking, gun-rights proponents in other states have pulled back legislation they were hoping to get passed this year. They include new laws to expand the right to carry concealed weapons and to prevent local governments from passing gun-control laws.

In Florida, the sponsor withdrew legislation that would have pre-empted cities and counties from filing lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

"I really think this is like a big volcano that's suddenly erupted, sort of the Mount St. Helen's of the gun tragedy in America," said Pamela Eakes, the founder and president of Mothers Against Violence in America, a 5-year-old group based in Seattle. "Littleton has sparked something, a permanent response. People are just saying, `Enough,' and legislators are clearly responding to that."

Other gun-control measures in the states include an Illinois bill, passed by the Legislature late last month and endorsed by Gov. George Ryan, requiring gun owners to keep their firearms locked away from children, with a possible prison term for the owner if a youth uses the adult's gun in a crime.

Pub Date: 5/31/99

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