SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gun control proponents intend to turn in more than a half-million signatures to qualify an initiative for the November ballot to tighten California's already tough gun laws, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a sponsor of the measure, said Thursday.
The proposal would make California the first state to require background checks at the point of sale for ammunition, although other states require buyers to obtain licenses and go through background checks ahead of time.
"What makes guns dangerous is ammunition. Yet we don't do background checks on ammo," Newsom said.
Guns can pass from hand to hand, legally or illegally, but he said the background checks would stop sales of ammunition to criminals and others who are prohibited from owning firearms.
It's one of several provisions Newsom hopes would set a national example if voters agree.
The initiative would also streamline California's unique program allowing authorities to seize firearms from owners who bought the weapons legally and were later convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor, determined to be mentally unstable, or were the subject of a restraining order involving domestic violence.
The ballot measure would also require owners to turn in large-capacity ammunition magazines. California already bans the sale of assault-style magazines holding more than 10 bullets but regulations allow those who have that ammunition to keep it.
It would also require owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement, among other provisions.
Opponents said those restrictions would do little to stop killings and would instead make criminals of many law-abiding gun owners.
Chuck Michel, co-chairman of the Coalition for Civil Liberties, which opposes the measure, said in a statement that it wouldn't stop such conspiracies.
"Politicians like Newsom need to concentrate on stopping criminals and terrorists, not law-abiding citizens exercising their rights," he said.
However, a Field Poll in January found the measure is likely to have broad support among voters. The survey was taken a month after the terror attack in San Bernardino killed 14 people and Newsom has also highlighted that shooting as indicative of the need for his proposal restricting access to weapons.
Newsom, a Democrat who plans to run for governor in 2018, has made gun control and legalizing recreational marijuana centerpieces of his early campaign. He introduced the gun proposal in October in response to a series of mass shootings and three killings in the San Francisco Bay Area that police said involved stolen guns.
Supporters expect to turn in about 600,000 signatures to elections officials, far more than the nearly 366,000 valid signatures of registered voters required to make the ballot.