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Panel OKs NRA-Backed Gun Bill That Author Says Would Have Thwarted Purdy

June 15, 1989|CARL INGRAM | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The Democratic-controlled Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday approved legislation its Republican author asserted would have prevented Stockton schoolyard murderer Patrick Purdy from legally purchasing guns.

The bipartisan vote sent the National Rifle Assn.-backed bill by Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) to the full Assembly, which earlier approved a similar Democratic-sponsored measure.

A major feature of the McClintock bill, considered the Assembly Republican model of gun control legislation this session, would make it illegal for convicted drug abusers, felons and the mentally unstable to possess any gun.

Likewise, the bill basically seemed to fit the NRA's insistence that criminals who use guns should be punished and law-abiding citizens should be left alone.

Ex-felons are now prohibited by state law from possessing handguns but can purchase and own rifles and shotguns. Likewise, a person convicted of violating certain misdemeanor drug laws can legally purchase firearms.

Like the previously approved Democratic bill, the McClintock measure would put on the proscribed list of gun purchasers the names of people held involuntarily under current law for psychiatric examinations.

Additionally, the bill would eliminate plea bargaining for a lesser sentence in crimes where a gun was used by the defendant and would substantially increase penalties for illegal use of firearms.

McClintock, the Assembly GOP's No. 1 advocate of gun ownership, told the committee that if his bill had been law, Patrick Purdy would have been prevented from obtaining the many weapons he had legally purchased in the years before he staged his bloody schoolyard attack on Jan. 17.

Purdy, a petty criminal with a history of drug use and mental problems, opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle, killing five elementary schoolchildren and wounding 29 others and a teacher before killing himself with a pistol.

Although he had been convicted of several misdemeanors, Purdy had been able to legally purchase a variety of handguns in California and the assault rifle in Oregon. Under California law now, the screening process for prospective purchasers of handguns applies to those convicted of felonies, not misdemeanors.

McClintock said Purdy was convicted in 1984 of armed robbery but was allowed to plea bargain to a misdemeanor and went on legally buying guns.

But committee Democrats, often accused by Republicans as free spenders without regard for revenue to pay for their projects, noted that the additional crimes and longer sentences proposed by McClintock would cost vast sums to finance construction and operation of new prisons.

An estimate by the Legislature's nonpartisan budget analyst put prison construction costs at $190 million next year and forecast that operating the new penitentiaries would increase to $51 million annually by the year 2000.

Asked by Chairman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) how he intended to finance the construction, McClintock noted that various prison bond issue measures pending in the Legislature "would do very nicely."

As for financing the operation of new prisons, McClintock noted that Gov. George Deukmejian has proposed that some inmates be required to work for their keep.

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