Hoping to goad Gov. George Deukmejian into signing a bill to outlaw assault rifles statewide, the Beverly Hills City Council on Tuesday banned sale and possession of the semiautomatic weapons in the city.
"We are going to assure that our city is not going to be an enclave for these weapons, especially since the city of Los Angeles has adopted a similar ordinance," Councilman Allen L. Alexander said.
His comments came as the City Council unanimously reversed an earlier decision to let the state take the lead on banning Uzis, AK-47s and other semiautomatic weapons.
Hope to Move Governor
"The state Legislature moved, but the governor hasn't moved, so we hope to move the governor," said Councilman Robert K. Tanenbaum, who was one of three members who voted against a ban in March.
Both houses of the Legislature have approved a bill to forbid the sale or transfer of a wide variety of assault weapons and to require those who already own such guns to register them. The governor has indicated that he considers the penalties the bills would impose for failing to register a legally obtained gun too severe. He and legislative leaders are trying to work out a compromise.
In rejecting an assault rifle ban by a 3-2 vote in March, the Beverly Hills council was following the advice of its city manager, police chief and city attorney, who said state law would preempt any action taken at the local level.
Now, however, city officials agree that Beverly Hills must act on its own.
"It was right to act at this time since the governor has not responded to the state Legislature on this matter," City Manager Ed Kreins said Wednesday.
"We will be forwarding the council's action to the attention of Gov. Deukmejian and hopefully he will take the necessary action to enact legislation on a state level," Kreins said.
Although semiautomatic rifles have been used for years by gang members in their internecine warfare on big-city streets, the measures to ban them passed the Legislature only after a gunman fired 106 bullets from an AK-47 into a crowded Stockton schoolyard on Jan. 17, killing five children and wounding 30 people before taking his own life.
The governor declared then that "there probably is no need to have any kind of military-type assault weapon available for the average citizen, even somebody who is a sportsman or a hunter."
But after the bills were approved by the Legislature last month, Deukmejian said that failure to register a gun should not be a criminal offense but merely an infraction subject to a fine.
Beverly Hills Mayor Max Salter contended, however, that the governor was trying to avoid making a decision.
"This is the excuse he has for not signing," Salter said. "The guy should be run out of office. It's a typical politician's ploy when he doesn't want to make one of the hard decisions."
On Tuesday, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown also spoke out against the governor's proposal, raising fears that his objections might torpedo the measure, which passed the Assembly without a vote to spare.
The Beverly Hills measure goes into effect immediately. It provides for a $1,000 fine or six months in jail, or both, for sale or possession of any semiautomatic rifle that can fire 20 rounds or more without being reloaded.
Sawed-off shotguns that can fire more than six rounds are also banned, along with the parts that would make such weapons workable.
There is one exception for movie, TV or video props, "only if . . . properly secure(d) . . . from unauthorized use."