TOPICS > Politics

Background: California Gun Control

August 31, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


JEFFREY KAYE: In the wake of recent shootings in Los Angeles, in Atlanta, and near Littleton, Colorado, California has passed a spate of gun control legislation.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS, California: Taken together, they represent the toughest gun control package of legislation in America.

JEFFREY KAYE: Last Friday, California’s governor, Gray Davis, signed three gun control bills into law. The signing took place outside a Los Angeles hospital which treated victims of a recent rampage at a nearby Jewish community center.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS: These are junk guns, and when I sign this legislation, they will go to the junkyard.

JEFFREY KAYE: Among the bills signed was one that will ban the sale and manufacture of poorly made handguns, commonly known as Saturday Night Specials. The law takes aim at cheap guns like these made in Southern California. The bill will require that the weapons pass tests ensuring they will not misfire or fire when dropped. The law is both a way to get cheap guns off the street, and to protect users and bystanders from faulty weapons. Another new law will require that guns sold in the state be equipped with child safety locks. Another will regulate gun shows and promoters. These new laws are in addition to ones Davis signed in July banning assault weapons and limiting handgun purchases to one a month.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, Speaker, California Assembly: This issue of gun violence is not just a public safety issue. It’s a public health issue.

JEFFREY KAYE: California lawmakers present for the signing said the gun crackdown was made possible because of the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature, and a Democratic governor. Previous gun control bills were vetoed by California’s former Republican governor. Gun shows are also under attack in the county of Los Angeles. Next week, the Board of Supervisors is expected to pass an ordinance outlawing the sale of guns and ammunition on county-owned property.

The gun allegedly used by Buford Furrow, Jr., in the murder of a postal worker was reportedly bought at a gun show as were weapons used by shooters at Columbine High School this year, and in North Hollywood in 1997, where bank robbers engaged police in a high-caliber shootout. Lee Baca is sheriff of LA County.

SHERIFF LEE BACA: There were several weapons, including assault weapons, that were purchased at the gun show that eventually through secondary and third purchases made their way into the hands of these two individuals. When you go to a gun show with your ability to sell illegal weapons, you know you have a potential audience and a potential purchaser.

JEFFREY KAYE: LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina says she supports the gun show crackdown because of daily gang shootings in her district.

GLORIA MOLINA: And the public is saying, “that’s enough. We’ve got to find a way to control guns in these communities.” And this is but one small step, but an important one.

JEFFREY KAYE: This weekend, an annual gun show in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale drew a record number of visitors. This show will be unaffected by the new law banning gun shows on county property. But vendors and attendees said they were afraid that increasing gun control could eventually lead to gun confiscation.

KEVIN BROWN, Gun Vendor: Where does it end? I think the thing is that you need to concentrate on the enforcement of the laws that are existing, and correct the proper punishment, instead of plea bargaining 11 people out of jail because the facilities are overcrowded. And let’s pay attention to the people that break the law instead of the law-abiding citizens.

JEFFREY KAYE: So you feel you’re being penalized?

KEVIN BROWN: I’m being restricted. Yes, yes. I think I’m catching the flak from the criminals.

JEFFREY KAYE: Gun show promoter Conrad LaGrasta says it’s unfair to blame gun shows like his for crime.

CONRAD LaGRASTA: I don’t see how they are going to accomplish their goal of keeping the guns out of the hands of loonies by closing down gun shows. A gun show is nothing but a bunch of gun stores all in one room. These guys are all legitimate gun dealers. I don’t see how the place where a person obtained the gun, I don’t see what that has to do with crime.

JEFFREY KAYE: LaGrasta says that if gun shows can’t take place on LA County property, promoters will take their business elsewhere.