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Sidewalk Gun Sale Worries Pasadena : Officials Don't Want City to Become Hub for Assault Rifles Banned in L.A.

February 16, 1989|MIKE WARD | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — City directors have asked City Atty. Victor Kaleta to investigate what steps the city can take to avoid becoming a major distribution point for semiautomatic weapons banned in other cities.

Kaleta said he will look into "a sidewalk sale" of assault rifles held by a Los Angeles gun store in Pasadena last weekend.

The rifles were put on sale Saturday outside C & J Arms on Foothill Boulevard by Gun Heaven, a Los Angeles store. Telephone callers to Gun Heaven heard a recorded message advising them to attend Pasadena's "blow-out sale on assault rifles."

Callers Advised

John Butler, owner of C & J Arms, said his company's role was "like a distributor," but he declined to discuss the circumstances of the sale or say how many rifles had been sold. The recorded message at Gun Heaven on Wednesday advised callers to go to Pasadena for assault rifles.

Director Rick Cole said he generally opposes gun control at the municipal level but does not want Pasadena to become "the Hong Kong free-market outlet for these assault weapons."

Police Chief James Robenson agreed, saying gun legislation should be enacted at the state level. "Passing a local ordinance is OK," he said, "but it's just kind of pushing the gun dealers from one community to another."

Robenson said police are trying to determine whether any city laws were violated by the sidewalk gun sale.

Los Angeles has banned the sale and possession of semiautomatic weapons, and the county is considering a ban in unincorporated areas. Other cities, such as Bellflower and Compton, either have enacted bans or are considering them.

Cole said it doesn't make much sense for cities to take on what should be a state responsibility. Not only is it confusing when different rules apply in each city, he said, but a violation of municipal ordinances is only a misdemeanor. To make possession or sale of semiautomatic weapons a felony would require action by the state Legislature.

Cole said that if Pasadena were left as one of the few outlets for semiautomatic weapons, it would be "a very wrong signal to give out" to the community. Thus, if the state does not act, he said, Pasadena might have to ban semiautomatic weapons on its own.

However, Cole said he is not yet convinced that Pasadena is in any real danger of becoming a major outlet for assault rifles.

Kaleta said he will prepare a report that will cover the sale of weapons in Pasadena, ordinances that have been enacted in other cities and the legal challenge to the Los Angeles ordinance filed in court by Colt Industries Inc., manufacturer of the AR-15 assault rifle. The company contends that the Los Angeles ordinance is unconstitutional because it intrudes into an area of regulation preempted by the state.

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