SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Democrats in the California Assembly approved a bill Monday that would allow only individuals, and not companies, to obtain permits to own assault weapons and .50-caliber rifles.
Lawmakers passed AB170 by Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, on a partisan 46-24 vote. The bill now moves to the Senate for approval.
Bradford said the bill seeks to close a loophole in state law by prohibiting corporations, associations, partnerships and limited liability companies from receiving permits from the state Department of Justice.
Previously, the Justice Department issued permits only to individuals, but an administrative law judge overturned that practice after it was challenged by a gun manufacturer, according to a legislative analysis of the bill. The Justice Department has appealed that decision and the bill seeks to bypass the ruling.
"Under the current situation, a corporation would be able to purchase one of these assault weapons right now and transfer it among its membership without the Department of Justice adequately being able to vet that person who possesses that weapon," Bradford told fellow lawmakers before the vote. "This simply makes sure that that doesn't happen."
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, questioned why the bill only applies to corporations and not governments. He said the bill was an assault on individual freedom and will only make it difficult for those in the firearm business to deal weapons.
"I think we're trying to basically craft a solution to a problem that really doesn't exist," Donnelly said.
Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, warned that the bill could cause problems for companies because a permit would have to be tied to a person who might leave the company at any time. "That's a great big loophole," Wagner said.
The bill is just one of many bills seeking further restrictions on guns and ammunition this year particularly in response to the Connecticut school massacre.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said the bill does not infringe on an individual's Second Amendment right because it doesn't apply to individuals.
"Maybe someone can explain to me how a corporation can keep and bear arms," he said.