SACRAMENTO -- During a three-hour hearing Tuesday that was designed to provide baseline information for difficult debates on gun violence-related legislation later this year, California lawmakers immediately uncovered something upon which all could agree.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers pledged to increase funding to the Department of Justice to allow it to hire additional investigators to track down a backlog of 20,000 known Californians who own guns even though they are prohibited by law from doing so.

"If there is common agreement on anything, it's that we ought to get guns out of the hands of people who are prohibited," said Senate President Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

"I concur with you completely," said Sen. Joel Anderson, R-San Diego.

"We do need adequate enforcement of existing laws," added Tom Pederson of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, a gun owners' group.

Those comments came during a special joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committees that included: the showing of a brief documentary film about the 1989 mass shootings of students at a Stockton elementary school; a review of the history of gun-control legislation in California; and a demonstration of how semi-automatic rifles can be adjusted to skirt the state's assault weapons ban.

Lawmakers were told that California already has the toughest gun-control regulations in the nation and were advised to expect tough sledding if they intend to adopt further restrictions this year.

"I got a gun permit because my life was being threatened with regularity, in ways that were quite frightening," said former Democratic Sen. Don Perata of Oakland, who led the effort in the late '90s to toughen the assault weapons ban. "This is serious business for serious people. If you just want to get your name in the paper, then stay out of this."

Current lawmakers, who will deal with numerous gun-control measures that have been introduced in the wake of the mass killings of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., appeared undeterred.

"This will serve as a launching point for what I anticipate will be a very active session around the issue of gun violence," Steinberg said of the hearing.

Stephen Lindley, chief of the Bureau of Firearms in the Department of Justice, told lawmakers that California's ban on assault-style weapons is being circumvented through the use of devices that allow for the rapid change of ammunition magazines on legal semi-automatic rifles. "It's a major loophole," he said.

In addition, he said, large-capacity magazine "repair kits" are being sold at California gun shows inside a bag that displays a disclaimer saying, "Do not assemble this in California." He noted the price of those kits has skyrocketed from about $20 to $85 since the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School kicked off a nationwide push for stricter gun regulation.

Lawmakers are expected later this year to consider bills that would close both those loopholes.

Republicans on the panel, noting that California's gun regulations already go beyond the federal measures proposed by President Barack Obama, said the state does not need to consider further regulations.

"California already has extremely strong gun laws. It will not solve the issue to take guns away from people who did not kill people at Newtown," said Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, R-Escondido.

Lindley said the state's ability to track gun purchasers is far superior to the national system that law enforcement officials have widely criticized as being ineffective.

"We are unique in the nation in our ability to identify people who are prohibited from owning firearms," he said. The system allows attorney general's investigators to identify gun owners who have subsequently been barred from legally owning guns through their own actions, such as committing a felony or engaging in domestic violence that results in a restraining order being issued against them.

The attorney general's Armed Prohibited Persons System has identified 19,784 individuals who illegally possess about 40,000 handguns and assault weapons. The list grows daily by 15 to 20.

In two enforcement sweeps last year, agents seized 2,033 firearms, 117,000 rounds of ammunition and 11,072 illegal high-capacity magazines.

Steinberg, who has introduced an urgency bill to provide additional funding to the department to enforce the APPS program, asked Lindley how much money it would take to eliminate the backlog.

He estimated it would require $8 million a year for three years. "I think we could arrest our way out of this problem in three years," he said.

Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara who attended most of Tuesday's hearing, made clear they do not intend to stop with simply stepping up the enforcement of existing laws.

"It is important to find common ground," Jackson said after the hearing. "But there are going to be differences in how we're going to respond to protect our families and our children."

Perata urged Democrats to use the advantage they gained in the November election to push for further regulation of guns and ammunition.

"You've got a supermajority," he told Democrats on the panel. "Take it out for a ride. See what you can do with it. You won't get the support of all the Democrats, but you won't need them." ___

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  • December 14, 2012 -- Newtown, Conn. -- 27 dead (including gunman)

    The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday was the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, leaving 27 dead -- including 20 young children. President Obama <a href="">gave an emotional address</a>, calling for "meaningful action": <blockquote>As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago -- these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We're going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics.</blockquote>

  • September 27, 2012 -- Minneapolis, Minn. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 2 injured

    Andrew John Engeldinger, a recently laid off employee of Accent Signage Systems, <a href="">entered the office building and opened fire</a>. (No public comments from the president.)

  • August 5, 2012 -- Oak Creek, Wis. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 4 injured

    White supremacist Wade Michael Page entered a Sikh Temple, opening fire on congregants. He later shot and injured a police officer responding to the scene. <a href="">Presidential reaction</a>: <blockquote>Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. <br>My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.</blockquote>

  • July 20, 2012 -- Aurora, Colo. -- 12 dead, 59 injured

    During a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," a gunman <a href="">opened fire on the suburban Denver movie theater</a>, killing 12 and injuring dozens of others. Two days later, Obama <a href="">delivered a ten-minute speech</a> from the University of Colorado that made no mention of gun control: <blockquote>God bless all who helped to respond to this tragedy. And I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on Earth.</blockquote>

  • May 31, 2012 -- Seattle, Wash. -- 6 dead (including gunman)

    A man opened fire in a cafe, <a href="">fatally wounding four people</a>, then killed another in a carjacking before killing himself. (No public comments from the president.)

  • April 2, 2012 -- Oakland, Calif. -- 7 dead

    A former student of Oikos University, a Korean college, entered a building on the campus and shot repeatedly at random targets. (No public comments from the president)

  • February 22, 2012 -- Norcross, Ga. -- 5 dead (including gunman)

    A man <a href="">shot and killed two of his sisters and their husbands and then himself</a> in a Korean health spa. (No public comments from the president.)

  • October 12, 2011 -- Seal Beach, Calif. -- 8 dead, 1 injured

    Scott Evans Dekraai, 41, stormed a hair salon where his ex-wife worked and <a href="">killed eight people</a>. (No public comments from the president.)

  • January 8, 2011 -- Tucson, Ariz. -- 6 dead, 14 injured

    Jared Lee Loughner, 22, opened fire in a Safeway parking lot, killing six people and injuring others including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was <a href="">shot in the head at point-blank range</a>. Two months later, Obama addressed gun control issues <a href="">in an op-ed for the <em>Arizona Daily Star</em></a>: <blockquote>I know that every time we try to talk about guns, it can reinforce stark divides. People shout at one another, which makes it impossible to listen. We mire ourselves in stalemate, which makes it impossible to get to where we need to go as a country. However, I believe that if common sense prevails, we can get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place.</blockquote>

  • August 3, 2010 -- Manchester, Conn. -- 9 dead (including gunman), 2 injured

    A driver for Hartford Distributors <a href="">killed eight people and then himself </a>in this workplace shooting. (No public comments from the president.)

  • November 29, 2009 -- Parkland, Wash. -- 5 dead (including gunman)

    A Washington man walked into a coffee shop and <a href="">shot four police officers execution-style</a>. (No public comments from the president.)

  • November 5, 2009 -- Fort Hood, Texas -- 13 dead, 30 injured (including gunman)

    In the deadliest shooting to ever happen on an American military base, an Army Major <a href="">serving as a psychiatrist went on a shooting spree</a> that killed 13. Obama <a href="">said at a press conference</a>: <blockquote>This morning I met with FBI Director Mueller and the relevant agencies to discuss their ongoing investigation into what caused one individual to turn his gun on fellow servicemen and women. We don't know all of the answers yet, and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all of the facts.</blockquote>

  • April 3, 2009 -- Binghamton, N.Y. -- 14 dead (including gunman), 4 injured

    Jiverly Wong, a naturalized immigrant from Vietnam,<a href=""> gunned down students and employees at the American Civic Association</a>, where he had been taking English lessons. President Obama said in a statement: <blockquote>Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence in Binghamton, N.Y. today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of Binghamton. We don't yet know all the facts, but my administration is actively monitoring the situation, and the vice president is in touch with Governor Paterson and local officials to track developments.</blockquote>

  • March 10, 2009 -- Geneva County, Ala. -- 11 dead (including gunman), 6 injured

    A 28-year-old man <a href="">killed his mother then drove ten miles to kill several members of his extended family, neighbors and a bystander</a>. The victims ranged in age from 18 months to 74 years old. (No public comments from the president.)

  • March 29, 2009 -- Carthage, N.C. -- 8 dead, 3 injured (including gunman)

    A gunman <a href="">opened fire on a nursing home</a>, killing seven residents and a nurse. (No public comments from the president.)

  • June 25, 2008 -- Henderson, Ky. -- 6 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

    After an argument with his boss at the Atlantis plastics plant, Wesley N. Higdon, 25, <a href="">killed five colleagues</a> and then himself. (No public comments from the president.)

  • February 14, 2008 -- DeKalb, Ill. -- 6 dead (including gunman, 21 injured)

    A former Northern Illinois University student, 27-year-old Steven Phillip Kazmierczak, opened fire on the campus, killing five people then himself. George W. Bush <a href="">spoke with school president John Peters </a>and told him "that a lot of folks today will be praying for the families of the victims and for the Northern Illinois University community. Obviously a tragic situation on that campus and I ask our citizens to offer their blessings, blessings of comfort and blessing of strength." Then an Illinois senator and presidential candidate, Barack Obama <a href="">said in a statement </a>that "we must also offer ... our determination to do whatever it takes to eradicate this violence from our streets and our schools; from our neighborhoods and our cities."

  • February 7, 2008 -- Kirkwood, Mo. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

    A gunman <a href="">opened fire on a public meeting in the city hall,</a> killing six people before he was shot and killed by police. (No public comments from the president.)

  • December 5, 2007 -- Omaha, Neb. -- 9 dead (including gunman)

    Robert A. Hawkins, 19, went on a shooting spree at the Westroads Mall, <a href="">killing eight people</a> and then himself. George W. Bush had been visiting Omaha for a fundraiser but left the city just an hour before the shooting took place. "Having just visited with so many members of the community in Omaha today, the president is confident that they will pull together to comfort one another as they deal with this terrible tragedy," the White House <a href="">said in a statement.</a>

  • October 7, 2007 -- Crandon, Wis. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

    Tyler Peterson, 20, <a href="" target="_hplink">killed six people</a>, including his ex-girlfriend, at a post-homecoming party. (No public comments from the president.)

  • April 16, 2007 -- Virginia Tech campus, Blacksburg, Va. -- 33 dead (including gunman), 23 injured

    Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the school, shot and killed 32 of his classmates before committing suicide. George W. Bush addressed the nation: <blockquote>I've spoken with Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community who have been devastated by this terrible tragedy. I told them that my administration would do everything possible to assist with the investigation, and that I pledged that we would stand ready to help local law enforcement and the local community in any way we can during this time of sorrow.</blockquote>