Guns: Will the Nation Follow California?

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After having failed to pierce the gun control impasse in Congress, the political bullets emanating from the Littleton massacre have landed in California with full effect. Following 2-to-1 approval margins in the state legislature, Democratic governor Gray Davis on Monday signed into law the nationís most sweeping ban on the manufacture, sale and importation of semiautomatic rifles and pistols. "My friends, guns do kill people," declared Davis, mocking a favorite NRA slogan. The governor also signed separate legislation barring individuals from purchasing more than one handgun a month. "The second restriction aims to stop buyers from purchasing large quantities for resale at gun shows," says TIME Los Angeles bureau chief Cathy Booth.

"The two pieces of legislation are most definitely a reaction to Littleton," says Booth. "They represent a major swing in public opinion from a region of the country, the West, which has traditionally loved guns." Whatís more, she reports, further gun control legislation is headed to the governorís desk. Seven more bills are in the pipeline, including measures that would require trigger safety locks, restrict cheap handguns and impose limits on the sale of guns from homes. After their defeat in the nationís capital, gun control activists are overjoyed to have succeeded in passing the new legislation in the largest state. "California often leads the way, showing where broader public opinion is also going," says Booth. And so the gun-restriction movement will now try to carry its California momentum into other states, with the aim of eventually targeting Washington again.