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Gun Control Allies Rally Around Roberti : Politics: Sarah Brady says her group will support the state senator who is targeted for recall by pro-gun activists. Defeat of their campaign could give impetus nationally to lawmakers considering stricter regulations.

January 07, 1994|JOHN SCHWADA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A seemingly imminent recall election against state Sen. David A. Roberti began to shape up Thursday as a national battle over gun control after Sarah Brady pledged to throw the support of her organization behind the embattled Roberti, who has been targeted for ouster by pro-gun activists.

Brady, whose efforts recently resulted in enactment of a federal five-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns, called the campaign to recall Roberti, a Van Nuys Democrat, an attempt to martyr a man of courage for his support of gun control legislation, most notably a precedent-setting 1989 state ban on the sale of military-style semiautomatic assault rifles. Brady is the wife of President Ronald Reagan's press deputy, James Brady, who was severely injured in the 1981 assassination attempt on Reagan.

Meanwhile, Roberti held a news conference Thursday flanked by supporters, including LAPD Chief Willie L. Williams, Sheriff Sherman Block and law enforcement organizations, where he pledged to fight the recall "with every ounce of my being."

The news conference, held outside Reseda High School, where a student was shot and killed last year, was repeatedly interrupted by hecklers who accused Roberti of being a Nazi and an ally of European banking interests.

"European banks?" grimaced Roberti, responding to his foes as TV cameras and reporters looked on. "That shows the wacko nature of this thing."

But Steven Glazer, Roberti's press secretary, warned that the gun control foes should not be underestimated.

"Narrow special interests can have an enormous influence" in low-turnout special elections, Glazer said.

A recall election against Roberti is not a sure thing, but advocates have filed petitions with about 45,000 signatures supporting it, twice the number required. "We are taking this very seriously," Glazer said.

The signatures have to be certified by the Los Angeles County registrar of voters. Already, 10,000 have been deemed valid. Signatures must be of voters from Roberti's 20th Senate District. An election might be held as early as April or May.

If the recall campaign can be defeated, it may embolden federal lawmakers and legislators in other states to enact tougher gun control measures, Roberti said.

Applauding Roberti were Block and Williams, Fred Tredy, a director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and Frank Grimes, head of the Southern California Assn. of Law Enforcement.

Earlier Thursday, recall activists held a news conference outside the bungalow in Van Nuys that Roberti claims as his official residence, although he admits he lives outside the 20th District in Hollywood.

At the event, recall leader Bill Dominguez termed Roberti a "political dinosaur" who deserves extinction. Dominguez is a Van Nuys systems analyst who is chairman of the Coalition to Restore Government Integrity, a coalition of groups seeking Roberti's ouster.

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