California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a 2016 ballot initiative that would ask voters to strengthen the state's gun laws.
Newsom, a likely candidate for California governor in 2018, wants to require background checks for ammunition purchases, ban possession of large-capacity magazines and require gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement.
Close to 366,000 signatures would need to be gathered to qualify the measure for next year’s ballot.
If adopted, the proposal Newsom is expected to release Thursday would make California the first state in the nation to require background checks at the point of sale for ammunition, although other states require purchasers to obtain licenses and go through background checks ahead of time.
Newsom will make his announcement in San Francisco near the site of a 1993 gun massacre that helped spur federal restrictions on assault weapons, reported the Los Angeles Times. He drafted his proposed initiative with the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which was created after that incident.
It comes in the wake of high-profile killings in Oregon, South Carolina and three recent San Francisco Bay Area killings in which the shooters allegedly used stolen guns to commit the crimes, and as the U.S. reels from including an average 92 gun deaths each day.
The ballot initiative would ask voters to make five changes to state law:
Eliminate the stockpile of now-banned large-capacity magazines with 11 rounds or more: Owners would be required to sell them to a licensed firearms dealer, take them out of state or turn them in to law enforcement to be destroyed. State law already bans manufacturing or selling magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
Ammunition dealers would need to conduct a background check at the point-of-sale for all ammunition, and dealers would need a license similar to those required to sell firearms. Stores also would be required to report to law enforcement if ammunition has been lost or stolen.
California would join 11 other states in requiring that lost or stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement.
California courts would set up a clear process to relinquish weapons. The authors say that more than 17,000 Californians who are prohibited from owning firearms currently have guns.
The California Department of Justice would have to notify the federal instant criminal background check system when someone is added to the database of those prohibited from purchasing or possessing a firearm. California currently reports to the federal system voluntarily.
Although California has some of the nation’s toughest gun restrictions, including a 1999 ban on assault weapons such as the AK-47, additional controls proposed after the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut washed out in the state legislature, or have been vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, reported the Sacramento Bee.
President Barack Obama proposed sweeping gun control measures early in 2013 following the shooting of 26 people at Sandy Hook, but legislation to strengthen federal background checks were rejected by Congress.
Polls have shown California voters are more generally more supportive of restricting access to guns than voters in other states.
A poll last month by the Public Policy Institute of California found that two-thirds of adults believe California's gun control laws should be stricter than they are now. It found that 57 percent of adults said controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right of Americans to own guns, while 40 percent said protecting gun ownership is more important.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press