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Lomita Council Won't Back Law on Toy Guns

September 24, 1987|TIM WATERS | Times Staff Writer

Lomita City Council members, never shy about venting their feelings about what they view as the excesses of big government, have done it again.

The council on Monday refused a request by the County Board of Supervisors to follow its lead and enact a law making it a misdemeanor to brandish a fake gun in a threatening manner.

"It's not right to take guns away from little kids," Councilman Hal Hall said. "This is just one more law aimed at restricting personal freedom."

On Aug. 25, the supervisors adopted an ordinance making it a crime to use a toy gun in an "angry or threatening way" in the county's unincorporated areas.

Horowitz Incident

The board's action came less than a week after KNBC consumer reporter David Horowitz was approached during a newscast by a man wielding a gun and ordered to read a rambling statement about the CIA. The weapon turned out to be a toy.

The supervisors subsequently asked the county's 84 cities to pass similar ordinances. In a letter to the cities, Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who introduced the proposal, wrote that the ordinance was necessary to "avoid a potential tragedy due to the irresponsible use of realistic toy weapons."

In response, Hermosa Beach passed an ordinance similar to the county's on Sept. 8. Inglewood and Carson this week tentatively approved similar laws. Several South Bay cities have not yet acted on the matter, while others have said a state law that goes into effect Jan. 1 and is similar to the one passed by the county makes local ordinances unnecessary.

Lomita City Manager Walker Ritter had recommended that council members go along with the supervisors' request. But several council members said the county ordinance is vague and children could end up being charged. The matter was dropped without a vote.

In a previous battle against big government, the council strongly supported an unsuccessful citizens' effort to secede from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Hall's vociferous opposition to the proposal on toy guns was ironic. In 1984, he shot and killed a robber as the man attempted to empty the cash register at his Lomita paint store. The robber's gun turned out to be a toy.

Hall said that all he saw from the corner of his eye was the outline of what appeared to be a real weapon, and investigators determined that the shooting was justified.

He said a law against using toy guns would not have deterred the robber.

"Every time something happens, they pass a law," said Hall, 77. "We have too many damn unenforceable laws right now."

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