SACRAMENTO — In one of their first major actions on the Assembly floor, freshman legislators Willard H. Murray and Bob Epple this week broke ranks with most of their Democratic colleagues and voted against a controversial bill that would outlaw certain assault weapons.
After an emotional three-hour debate, the Assembly on Monday narrowly approved the measure by a 41-38 vote and sent it to the Senate. Only eight of the Assembly's 47 Democrats opposed the bill, including Murray of Paramount, Epple of Norwalk and Dave Elder of San Pedro, who also represents part of Long Beach.
The bill by Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles) would outlaw about 40 specific firearms listed as "assault" weapons, including the Israeli-made Uzi and the AK-47, used by the military in many Communist countries. In pressing his case during the debate, Roos described his proposal as the first step in "bringing some sort of sanity and civilization back into our communities.
Won't Reduce Crime
Murray said that the floor debate failed to change his mind and predicted that the Roos legislation "will not reduce crime because it will not reduce the availability of guns" for criminals.
Moreover, Murray said, if the bill becomes law "it will give people a false sense of security" that gang violence has been curbed.
The Senate last week approved a stronger bill to control assault weapons, which now must be reconciled with the Assembly version. Gov. George Deukmejian has indicated he favors the Assembly's approach.
Murray has made no secret of his opposition to further gun controls, a position that has drawn criticism from city officials in Compton, which is in his district. In January the Compton City Council passed an ordinance banning the possession and sale of AK-47s and other assault-type weapons in the city.
Endorsed by NRA
In his election victory last November, Murray was endorsed by the National Rifle Assn., which opposed the Roos bill.
But Murray said the NRA did not lobby him to oppose the bill. "I arrived at the conclusion all by myself," he said with a smile.
Epple, who rents a room in Roos' Sacramento condominium, declined several requests for comment on his opposition to his roommate's proposal.
Acknowledging that Epple disagrees with his bill, Roos quipped: "It shows that we're the definite odd couple."
Before the vote Elder handed out a three-page statement to explain his opposition. He echoed Murray's view that the bill would have no impact on crime "because gangs would obtain weapons illegally anyway."
Supported Waiting Period
Elder's statement suggested that instead of a ban, Roos might get more support for legislation to require a 15-day waiting period before a person could purchase an assault weapon. He also said he supports provisions in Roos' bill to increase penalties for unlawful use of firearms.
The other Democrats representing Southeast Los Angeles County--Charles Calderon of Whittier, Theresa P. Hughes of Los Angeles, Lucille Roybal Allard of Los Angeles and Maxine Waters of Los Angeles--supported the measure.
Republicans Dennis Brown of Los Alamitos, who represents part of Long Beach, and Frank Hill of Whittier were opposed.
The Senate bill, passed last week, bans Uzis, AK-47s and other military combat weapons in California. Among its supporters were Democrats Ralph C. Dills of Gardena, Cecil Green of Norwalk and Joseph B. Montoya of Whittier and Republican Robert G. Beverly of Manhattan Beach.