Mountain lions will get more protections in 2014. (princecody / Flickr)
Mountain lions will gain more protections in 2014. (princecody / Flickr)

Gun owners will face tougher restrictions, bobcats and mountain lions will gain more protections on January 1. And in certain circumstances, children will be able to have more than two parents.

Those are just some of the hundreds of changes that kick in on Wednesday, when new California laws take effect.

Gun control

The most far-reaching  gun bills in front of lawmakers this year didn’t make it into law. Gov. Brown vetoed a measure banning detachable magazines on rifles, and lawmakers failed to pass a bill requiring background checks for ammunition purchases.

But 11 new laws will impact firearms owners. One measure requires people to keep their guns locked, if they live with someone who’s barred from owning a weapon because of a criminal or mental health record.

Another law puts tougher penalties on parents who don’t stow their weapons properly. Cody Jacobs, a staff attorney with the gun control-focused Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, pointed out the measure also requires gun stores to post more warnings about proper gun storage in homes with children.

“And so we think that more gun owners seeing that this is the law — hey, you can’t put your gun in a place where your child might gain access to it — we think that will incentivize them to follow the law, and result in fewer accidents,” Jacobs said.

Rifles will come under more scrutiny, too.  Potential buyers will now need to pass a safety test before they buy long guns. Until now, those tests had only been required for handguns. The state will also start compiling a database of rifle and shotgun purchases. That development has many gun owners agitated, as the Sacramento Bee reported earlier this month.

Protections for undocumented immigrants

California’s undocumented immigrants will face fewer deportation threats when 2014 begins, too.

Beginning this week, local police will be barred from turning undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities, except under specific circumstances.  But while the so-called TRUST Act got most of the attention in Sacramento this year, it’s not the only new law protecting undocumented immigrants.

Supervisors will be banned from threatening to report an undocumented employee, if the worker is raising legitimate complaints about unfair wages, hours or other workplace rights covered by California’s Labor Code. The state will be able to suspend or revoke a business’ license for reporting an undocumented immigrant simply out of retaliation.

The new laws are part of a broader push to increase whistle-blower protections at private companies.

The most high-profile new measure affecting undocumented immigrants is a law that allows them to apply for and receive driver’s licenses. It doesn’t actually kick in until 2015. But immigration advocates are urging the state to immediately stop impounding the cars of undocumented immigrants caught driving without licenses.

Three or more parents

Two new laws affecting children generated plenty of “only in California” headlines when they passed this year. SB 274 allows the possibility for more than two adults to be named as the parents of a child. Like many new laws, this was a response to a specific circumstance. As the Los Angeles Times explained when Brown signed the measure:

The bill was partially a reaction to a 2011 court decision involving a lesbian couple that briefly ended their relationship, according to (Senator Mark) Leno’s office. One of the women was impregnated by a man before the women resumed their relationship. A fight broke out, putting one of the women in the hospital and the other in jail, but the daughter was sent to foster care because her biological father did not have parental rights.

The new law is meant to keep children falling into that sort of situation out of the foster care system.

While a handful of socially conservative groups raised complaints that the new law further erodes the traditional definition of a family, the measure didn’t stir up too much controversy. That wasn’t the case with a new law allowing transgender students to self-identify their gender in California schools, and use the facilities or play on the sports teams of their choice.

The new law is already the focus of a referendum campaign. Organizers say they’ve already gathered the signatures needed to put the repeal measure on next year’s ballot.

Big win for bobcats (and mountain lions. … and eventually condors)

2014 will bring a handful of new environmental protections, too. Chief among them: two laws granting increased protection to California’s bobcats and mountain lions. Beginning Wednesday, hunters will be banned from trapping bobcats near Joshua Tree National Park. Similar protections will follow soon at other national and state parks with bobcat populations.

That’s a response to hunters setting up shop just outside the park’s borders to trap bobcats. “The bobcats don’t know where the boundaries are,” bill sponsor Richard Bloom, an Assembly Democrat, told KQED in May. 

Another law limits when game wardens can shoot and kill mountain lions that wander into populated areas.

2013’s most high-impact environmental law, a statewide ban on lead bullets, won’t fully kick in until 2019. It’s meant to protect condors and other wild animals that eat lead bullet fragments.

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Scott Detrow

Sacramento bureau chief Scott Detrow covers state government, politics and policy for KQED News and its statewide news program, The California Report.

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