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Stockton's Big Bang Theory : Give everyone a gun and run for cover, fast

November 18, 1994

Five years ago, Stockton experienced unspeakable tragedy when a deranged drifter showered gunfire from an AK-47 assault rifle on children on an elementary school playground. That horror, in which five youngsters were killed and 29 others were wounded, became the impetus for California's landmark 1989 assault weapons ban and a recent federal prohibition against the manufacture and sale of certain military-style semiautomatic weapons.

Now, in a cruel paradox, Stockton's City Council is considering a wrongheaded and dangerous measure that encourages firearms proliferation and directly imperils public safety. It would force the police chief, who opposes the measure, to issue concealed weapons permits to nearly all of the city's adult residents who requested them.

Those with "good moral character," no felony convictions and not judged mentally infirm under state law would be eligible to carry a firearm hidden on their person or in their vehicle anywhere in California anytime.

By some estimates that would put CCW (carrying concealed weapons) permits in the hands of as many as 130,000 Stockton residents. Proponents, including the National Rifle Assn., say that would promote safety. But how could it?

Stockton has reduced crime by 5.5% by adding more police officers. It should be proud of that, and build on it. Letting so many citizens carry pistols would undo what the town has achieved.

Pistol packers would include many who, though "law-abiding," lacked the depth of training and mind-set to safely bear a firearm in a public setting. All in all, it's a severe threat to law enforcement officials. Not to mention anyone else nearby--armed or otherwise--when the inevitable gunplay begins.

It was for good reason that Old West marshals seeking to cleaned up lawless towns required people to check in their side arms. Today, good reason dictates that CCW permits be given only to the few individuals who can demonstrate a true need. As for Stockton, it would do itself and California a great service by rejecting this dangerous proposal.

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