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Gun Control Push Begun at Law Firm : Massacre: Employees return to San Francisco building targeted by gunman. Some have formed a group that will call for stricter legislation.

July 07, 1993|RICHARD C. PADDOCK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — With the bloodstains washed away and the bullet holes repaired, employees of the Pettit & Martin law firm returned to work Tuesday for the first time since last week's high-rise shooting and immediately began pushing for stricter gun control laws.

An impromptu memorial with dozens of flowers and cards greeted employees outside the 48-story office tower at 101 California St. A team of four counselors was on hand to help the lawyers and staff members cope with their return to work.

But many of the firm's employees found that the best therapy was in trying to prevent such a shooting--which claimed nine lives and injured six--from happening again.

Joining with advocates of gun control across the nation, members of the firm formed a new group called Legal Community Against Violence. Within hours, the firm had received dozens of calls from other law firms and companies offering to help.

"We feel so helpless about what happened," said Michele Marinaro, manager of attorney recruiting who is helping coordinate the gun control effort. "It's really gratifying to hear all the support. The outpouring has been massive."

During a 15-minute rampage last Thursday, Gian Luigi Ferri roamed through three floors of the financial district high-rise, shooting lawyers and office workers. Ferri killed himself in a stairwell after he was cornered by police.

A letter found on Ferri's body showed that he blamed recent financial setbacks on lawyers at the firm, which represented him more than a decade ago in a real estate transaction. The document said he also believed he was being poisoned by the food additive monosodium glutamate.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Police Department disclosed that there was a four-minute delay in dispatching officers after the first 911 call was received. Ambulances were sent one minute after the emergency call came in.

Once police were dispatched, they arrived in 27 seconds, city officials said. The Police Department was at a loss to explain the delay in sending officers, but the city's 911 system has long been criticized for delays and inefficiency. Police said they were investigating.

Gun experts said Tuesday that two of the weapons Ferri used, Intratec TEC-DC-9s, are virtually identical to the TEC-9, which is banned under California law as an assault weapon.

After the state enacted its assault weapon ban in 1989, the manufacturer changed the name of the semi-automatic pistol to the TEC-DC-9. Because that exact name is not on the state's list, it is legal to possess the gun in California.

Under the law, Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren has the authority to go to court and seek to add weapons to the list. But his first effort--a move to add the Colt Sporter to the list--was challenged in court and has not been resolved.

"This method of adding weapons to the list is up in the air legally," said Dave Puglia, a spokesman for Lungren. "Conceivably, it (the TEC-DC-9) could be added at some point as a copycat of the banned weapon, the TEC-9."

Ferri's guns also had a "hellfire switch"--a spring action to increase the speed at which they fire, which also is legal under California law.

In the months before the shooting, Ferri took a trip to the Mojave Desert with acquaintances he met at a gun show to practice shooting his TEC-9 semiautomatic pistols, Los Angeles television station KNBC reported.

According to the broadcast, which included home video footage of Ferri shooting his pistol, Ferri told his acquaintances that he did not like lawyers.

During the last year, Ferri was a regular customer at an Encino restaurant where he got to know the owners. "He was very quiet, introverted and withdrawn," said Sharon Rollo, who with her husband owns Il Casale.

Ferri often complained about MSG and once inspected the kitchen to make sure none was used there, she said. "The last time he was at the restaurant, he said business was bad and that he wouldn't be coming for a while," Rollo said.

A spokesman for the San Francisco coroner's office said authorities are having difficulty locating any relatives of Ferri. His body will be cremated if none are found.

Crews worked through the holiday weekend to replace the shattered glass, remove the bloodstained carpet and repair the bullet holes at Pettit & Martin, where most of the victims were shot.

By the time employees came to work Tuesday, the office looked the same as usual. They greeted each other with hugs, gathered to talk about the shooting and shared memories of those who died.

"People are still very much shaken," said Vickie Spang, marketing director of the law firm. "But there are no physical reminders of what happened."

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