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Assault Gun Ban Wins Final Vote : Deukmejian's Promised Approval Would Make It 1st Such U.S. Law

May 19, 1989|CARL INGRAM | Times Staff Writer

While the Roberti-Roos legislation was announced in December, it was the Jan. 17 murders of five Southeast Asian refugee children in a Stockton schoolyard that provided the emotional ingredient required to advance the bill and gain the support of Deukmejian, long an opponent of new controls on guns.

The children were cut down by Patrick Duffy, a demented drifter clad in combat fatigues, who fired 105 shots from a Chinese-made AK-47 across the playground, reloading at least once. He then shot and killed himself. Twenty-nine other children and a teacher were wounded in the attack that focused national attention on military-style assault guns.

Despite the backing of the GOP governor for the Roos-Roberti legislation, all but two Assembly Republicans--Charles Quackenbush of Saratoga and William Filante of Greenbrae--either voted against the bill or did not vote at all Thursday.

Roos, who during floor debate commended Deukmejian for his "courageous" stance, urged Republicans to vote aye and "change the culture of violence as it badly affects many of our cities up and down the state." Roos told them that the "Bush Administration has made this safe to do."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday May 23, 1989 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 6 Metro Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
A story Friday incorrectly identified a drifter who murdered five children in a Stockton schoolyard shooting spree in January. The gunman's name was Patrick Purdy.

But Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) countered that misdemeanor and felony penalties in the bill are "certain to make criminals out of thousands and, more than likely, tens of thousands, of law-abiding, decent Californians" without touching criminal gun users.

Roos claimed, however, that such arguments constituted the "last gasp of the NRA."

In the Senate, Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), former chief of police in Los Angeles, warned that the assault gun ban would swiftly lead to future controls against other guns--an overriding fear of many California gun owners.

"This will be a sad day for liberty in California," Davis declared. "We will be the first state in the nation to declare war on semi-automatic weapons. This (bill) is a result of sentiment, emotion and panic-thinking. It's not going to make anyone safe. It's just a placebo."

In Washington, Sarah Brady, chairwoman of Handgun Control Inc., said actions such as California's send a "strong signal to Congress that Americans want to take back our streets." She urged Bush and Congress to "follow California's lead."

Unlike previous California attempts to outlaw assault weapons, the latest effort featured a new wrinkle in packaging.

In earlier campaigns, Handgun Control Inc., chief adversary of the NRA, took the leading, up-front role in lobbying. Some law enforcement organizations, while mostly gingerly supporting Handgun Control, did not band together in a united front.

For many legislators, representatives of Handgun Control were synonymous with gun confiscators knocking on doors in the middle of the night demanding that weapons be surrendered.

This time around, law enforcement took the leading role in public and successfully cast the issue as a public safety matter. Handgun Control, meantime, provided major financial support for indirect lobbying of the Legislature through paid advertising and helped organize citizen efforts for the bill.

Times staff writer Jerry Gillam contributed to this story.


Major provisions of the "Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989," which will become law Jan. 1, 1990, include these:

The law establishes a new classification of firearms known as "assault weapons." It declares that an assault weapon has "such a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings."


It will be punishable for a term of from four to eight years in state prison for civilians to import, manufacture, distribute, sell, give or lend any assault weapon. Possession, except for people with a special permit, will be punishable either as a misdemeanor with a jail sentence or as a felony with a prison term.

It will be a misdemeanor to advertise the sale of assault weapons.


Anyone who legally possesses such a firearm as of this June 1 has 18 months or until Jan. 1, 1991, to register it with the state Department of Justice. The fee will be a maximum $20. (A person seeking to buy an assault weapon after June 1 first must get a difficult-to-obtain permit from the department by next Jan. 1.)

Possession generally is restricted to the gun owner's home, business or any private property where permission is granted. Other legal sites include approved target ranges, licensed shooting clubs and certain exhibitions. Transporting an assault weapon in a locked container to and from such places will be legal.

If the owner of a legally acquired assault gun did not register it, he or she will be subject to a fine of $350 to $500 for the first violation. For the owner of an illegally obtained weapon, simple possession of the outlawed gun will be a misdemeanor or a felony at the discretion of a judge.

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