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Santa Monica to Consider Banning Sales of Toy Guns

October 29, 1987|TRACY WILKINSON | Times Staff Writer

The Santa Monica City Council, after hearing pleas from a television actress packing half a dozen toy guns, has decided to consider an ordinance that would ban the sale of replica firearms.

The regulation, which will be debated at a Nov. 10 City Council meeting, is similar to one passed by Burbank last month and comes as part of a countywide movement to restrict toy guns.

The council, in its meeting Tuesday night, had been scheduled to vote on an ordinance to make brandishing toy guns a misdemeanor and require warning labels on replica firearms sold in stores.

But Councilman Alan Katz decided the city should go a step further.

"If we all agree on the ultimate goal, that these toys are not healthy, it seems to me we should make the strongest possible statement: that we don't want these toys in Santa Monica and you have to go elsewhere to get them," Katz told the council.

"The more communities that take a position like this, the easier it will make it for the state Legislature to take this position, (and) for communities around us to do it," he added.

Ban Called Impractical

The city manager's staff had argued that a measure banning the sale of toy guns only in Santa Monica would be impractical and could not be enforced because the toys would still be readily available elsewhere in the county.

But the council voted to consider the stiffer ordinance proposed by Katz at its next meeting and to invite members of the public, including toy shop owners and toy manufacturers, to appear at that session and present their views.

Katz's motion came after television actress and singer Michelle Phillips urged the council to adopt an all-out ban on the sale of toy guns. Simply making it a misdemeanor to brandish the toys does not go far enough and is unrealistic, she said.

"How can we put these (toy guns) in our children's hands and then tell them to play like gentlemen?" she said.

As she spoke, Phillips pulled from a plastic bag half a dozen replica firearms, including a fake M-16 rifle and an Uzi machine gun.

After the meeting, Phillips, who has been active in the movement to ban toy guns in the Los Angeles area for about a year, praised the council's action as "wonderful."

More Than Expected

"I'm thrilled. The ball is really starting to roll now," she said. "This was more than I expected."

Katz, in a later interview, said the upcoming vote on the toy gun ordinance may be close because the use of warning labels is also an acceptable measure.

"There is some sense of let's do what we can do," he said. "Is it more effective to warn or to ban?"

Some questions apparently remain about whether a city can legally ban a particular toy. Councilwoman Chris Reed, who preferred the originally proposed ordinance on warning labels, said she would rather see Burbank serve as the test case.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in August passed an ordinance that makes brandishing a firearm "in a threatening manner" a misdemeanor. The board asked cities in the county to enact similar measures.

The action was spurred by several incidents in which use of phony guns posed "a serious threat to public safety and security," the board said. Earlier this year, a Los Angeles television reporter was forced to read a statement by a man who interrupted a live broadcast wielding a fake weapon.

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