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Calif. Lawmakers To Debate Controversial Gun-Control Bill


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I am Renee Montagne. Here in California today, a controversial gun control bill gets its first hearing. It was introduced in the wake of last month's mass murder near the campus of UC Santa Barbara. NPR's Kirk Siegler reports.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: When California lawmakers began debate today, expect the case of Elliott Rodger to come back into focus.

ASSEMBLYMAN DAS WILLIAMS: We were particularly inspired by the anguish and the anger in the community and from the parents.

SIEGLER: Assemblyman Das Williams represent the Santa Barbara neighborhood where the 22-year-old Rodger killed six people last month. Williams is the bill's cosponsor.

WILLIAMS: Parents of the perpetrator, in fact, tried to warn law enforcement but did not have a legal avenue to do something about it.

SIEGLER: The bill would work similar to a domestic violence restraining order. It would allow a family member or close friend to alert police of a loved one they worry could pose a threat to themselves or the public. Police would then seek a restraining order from a judge, and if granted, that person's guns could be temporarily seized.

WILLIAMS: How many mass shootings have to take place before we decide as a society that we are going to do something?

SIEGLER: The bill has already drawn predictable support from gun control and law enforcement groups and opposition from gun rights and civil rights groups. They worry that the system is ripe for abuse - for example, among feuding family members. UCLA law professor and gun policy expert Adam Winkler says to some extent, they're right.

ADAM WINKLER: However, judges are the ones who have to provide these restraining orders. And it's unlikely that judges are going to deny people access to their firearms and a constitutional right on the basis of slim or no evidence.

SIEGLER: California has some of the toughest gun laws in the U.S. And the NRA and other gun groups don't wield as much influence here as other states. Governor Jerry Brown has not yet said whether he supports the bill though. Kirk Siegler, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As a correspondent on NPR's national desk, Kirk Siegler covers rural life, culture and politics from his base in Boise, Idaho.