California could give President Biden a political win this year on gun violence.

State senators passed sweeping legislation in January that would toughen gun storage requirements, embracing a White House priority that has languished in Congress.

Many states, including California, have laws in place requiring gun owners to securely store their firearms when children are present. The Biden administration wants to go further by requiring gun owners to secure firearms most of the time.

Firearms were the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 17 in 2020, 2021 and 2022, according to analyses of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by KFF. In 2022, an average of seven children a day died of gunshots.

The Justice Department unveiled model gun storage legislation in December, as part of the Biden administration’s multipronged strategy to encourage states to lead on gun safety. It’s also a tacit acknowledgment that Congress, where Republicans control the House and can block most bills from moving through the Senate, isn’t going to act.

Lawmakers in Arizona, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey and Utah have introduced measures similar to California’s gun storage bill, but they have yet to advance. A South Dakota lawmaker did, too, but the GOP-controlled legislature killed it almost immediately in mid-February. Oregon and Massachusetts already have implemented comparable regulations.

“If you’re from a red state, it’s almost virtually impossible to get anything passed,” said South Dakota state Rep. Linda Duba, a Democrat, who called her GOP colleagues beholden to the National Rifle Association. “They are so worried about the NRA rating and their reelection that they can’t see beyond it.”

California Republicans and the NRA describe California’s bill as excessive, saying it would infringe upon Second Amendment rights.

The NRA supports “empowering individuals to make responsible choices, rather than eroding their freedoms with typical California-style gun control,” said Daniel Reid of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.

Even if it passes, California’s measure is likely to be vulnerable to legal challenges.

The bill would extend gun storage rules to all residences, a mandate similar to the Biden administration’s proposal, and require owners to secure firearms in a lockbox or a safe. The White House proposal gives gun owners the option of using a trigger lock. California state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D), who spoke about his bill at a White House event in January via video conference, told me he believes the measure stands a better chance at passing in California’s Democratic-controlled legislature than in Congress.

It’s unclear whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom would sign it. The Democrat, often mentioned as a future presidential hopeful, has signed several gun-safety laws, but he declined, through a spokesperson, to comment on this one.

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