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Permission to Pack : More than a million Americans are ready to deal lethal force. And they're licensed to do it. Handgun permits are getting easier to come by--even in L.A.

January 04, 1996|PAUL DEAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kopel predicts that 40 states will ratify carrying laws by the turn of the millennium. Even California.

"[CCW] is always passed with this flurry of excitement, warnings of annihilation, then there's a big rush of people to get permits," he adds. "Then after that, even in states where gun control remains a very hot issue, repealing the CCW law tends not to get very much attention, even from the gun-control lobby.

"In their view, it's not that big an issue."

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Attorney Kates says polls regularly prove that crime has replaced the economy as the Great National Concern. He also believes that the majority of Americans have heard the NRA and HCI on carrying concealed weapons and other gun issues and decided, "They're both crazy.

"This great majority in the middle want laws, sensible gun laws that represent a reasonable way of dealing with crime and guns. In essence, laws that target criminals without disarming the citizenry."

James Jarrett heads the United States Marksmanship Academy in Arizona, where the open carrying of weapons is a territorial tradition. Last year, the state passed a concealed-carry law and Jarrett, former LAPD officer and an adjunct professor of justice studies at Arizona State University, began training new permit holders.

Jarrett believes you can teach a chimpanzee to shoot, so half of his 16-hour course is devoted to the legal and psychological ramifications of deadly force because "If you haven't used deadly force, if you are not intimately familiar with the law . . . you are placing people at enormous risk."

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Would aerospace employee David Elliott of Torrance, a retired Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran, carry a pistol? Maybe, he says. Because he works nights and drives a Mercedes and knows it's a popular target for carjackers.

"There is the deterrent factor," he says. "There's a helluva lot to be said for the knowledge that anybody you bump into might be carrying a gun. So the guy who is going to stake out my Mercedes is certainly going to think twice."

Television reporter Ellen Lava owned a handgun when she was single and sleepless in Sacramento. It was her going-away gift to a co-anchor when she left for Los Angeles and Channel 7.

Now Lava is protected by a husband and the alarm system and double locks of her home in Santa Monica. She carries Mace, but "I personally do not feel a need for a gun, or to carry a gun. But if my husband goes back to flying for the airlines, I'd buy another gun."

Public figures who do have permits to carry concealed weapons are generally reluctant to discuss their reasons or carrying habits. Some believe acknowledging a permit is likely to alert potential assailants and neutralize the advantage of concealing a handgun.

Several queries to Arthur Sulzberger's office went unanswered.

There was silence from Tom Selleck's publicity agent.

A representative said Donald Trump has his New York City permit but "doesn't carry a gun, never has."

From the office of publisher William F. Buckley and his National Review, an assistant's response was a chuckle.

"I presume he hasn't turned it in on a certificate from Toys R Us," she said. Later, after checking with Buckley: "Yes, he still has a gun and a permit."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein obtained her permit in 1976 when she was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and a bomb exploded against her house.

"I was a victim of the New World Liberation Front," she recalled. "Then they shot out the windows of our beach house."

Although a supporter of tough gun laws, Feinstein believes citizens should be granted permits to carry concealed weapons if there is "a demonstrable need."

Her own license has lapsed.

Feinstein's gun was melted into a crucifix, which she later presented to Pope John Paul.

Don Buchwald of New York represents Howard Stern. He said he didn't know if his client had a gun permit. Could you ask?

"Who cares?" snapped Buchwald.

Then he hung up.

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