A proposed ordinance banning the possession of handguns in the city has failed before a divided City Council.
Mayor Walter R. Tucker Jr. and Councilwoman Jane D. Robbins voted against the proposed ban, and Councilwoman Bernice Woods abstained.
Tucker described the ordinance as "ludicrous," drawing applause from several residents at Tuesday night's council meeting. Tucker said the ordinance would make citizens who own guns helpless in the face of assailants who invade their homes.
"We need ways to make our streets safe," said one resident, Marcine Shaw, "but I don't think this stripping us of our constitutional right to protect ourselves is the way to accomplish it."
Councilman Maxcy D. Filer, a longtime advocate of gun controls, had proposed the ordinance, which would have banned possession of handguns in Compton in 90 days. Only Councilwoman Patricia A. Moore joined Filer in supporting the proposal.
Filer read from newspaper headlines to make his case: "Cab driver shot in the head." "Boy, 14, shot." "Man shot in car."
Filer disputed the argument by gun-control foes that they have a constitutional right to own guns. The U.S. Constitution protects the rights of the states to maintain National Guard units, not the rights of citizens to own handguns, Filer contended.
Filer said he was aware that his proposal might have been challenged in court if it became law, but said he would welcome a legal battle on the issue. He also said he wanted Compton to send a message to state legislators and federal representatives that they must enact gun control to help cities, such as Compton, with high crime rates.
Though the number of murders has been dropping steadily for about 18 months in Compton, there have been six homicides in the past three weeks, according to Police Chief Terry Ebert.
Moore, reading from Police Department statistics, pointed out that the number of murders involving semiautomatic assault rifles began to decline after the city banned the sale and possession of such weapons in 1989. In 1989, these weapons were involved in 19 of the city's 84 homicides. In 1990, they were used in two of the 78 homicides, and none of the 25 murders this year have involved semiautomatic assault weapons.
Handguns, however, were used in 19 of the homicides this year, statistics show.
It was Filer who two years ago proposed the ban on semiautomatic weapons after several Stockton children were killed in their schoolyard by a gunman who fired on them with an assault rifle. Compton became the first of several cities to outlaw the sale and possession of such weapons, and within months the Legislature adopted a similar ban.
In 1987, the council voted to ban handguns but a week later reversed itself when angry residents jammed the council chambers in protest.