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Assembly members told to check guns at door

April 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The debate over gun control is being re-ignited at the state Capitol. Four state assembly members who had been given permission to carry concealed weapons are now under orders to check their guns at the door.

Some state lawmakers are starting to question their safety, and now there are discussions over whether they should be able to carry guns.

Monday marked the first day when California Assembly members came to work, but had to check their guns at the door.

Under a 2010 law, the sergeant-at-arms gave four unnamed lawmakers permission to carry a concealed weapon under the Capitol dome, but Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) revoked the permits Friday to review the policy.

"The Sergeant, although he's authorized under state law to grant that permission, we ought to have more minds involved in the ultimate policy," said majority leader state Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Montebello).

It's unclear why the four lawmakers wanted to pack heat while in Sacramento. They were only allowed to carry their guns from the Capitol garage to their offices, not to the floor.

But the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona brought attention to the vulnerability of politicians.

"What you're really asking is should lawmakers be denied the Second Amendment? I would say that they shouldn't," said state Assm. Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks). "I think any infringement of the Second Amendment is a mistake. And I'm really hopeful the Speaker will consider that."

Capitol visitors already go through screening and metal detectors before entering the state Capitol.

This month the Assembly Sergeants-at-Arms began carrying .40-caliber semi-automatic weapons to enhance safety, given the rising levels of rhetoric on taxes and other controversial proposals. Armed CHP officers also guard the building.

"I don't believe that I would ever, ever need a weapon," said state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). Yee has received a few death threats but thinks the building's security is adequate, and a sergeant-at-arms is available for events outside the Capitol.

"We have got to trust those individuals who've been detailed to support us, help us, protect us," said Yee.

A proposal to add lawmakers to the list of people allowed to carry a concealed weapon is working its way through committee. Assembly Speaker Perez is looking to re-install panic buttons in lawmakers' offices, which would alert the sergeant-at-arms of trouble.

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