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Poll Indicates Support for More Gun Control

Violence: Health foundation survey shows backing for ban on the sale and use of cheap handguns.

April 18, 1996|PAUL H. JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles-based health care foundation that advocates treating gun violence as a public health crisis released a survey Wednesday showing strong support in Los Angeles and Orange counties for stricter gun control regulations--including a ban on the sale and manufacture of so-called Saturday night specials.

In a telephone survey of 1,000 registered voters, the California Wellness Foundation found that 55% of Los Angeles County residents and 58% of Orange County residents support a ban on the sale and use of the small cheap handguns. Seventy-one percent in each county approve of a ban on the manufacture of such weapons.

An overwhelming number of voters from both regions, 73%, want to ban the sale of weapons from homes. A majority of residents--55% in Orange County and 60% in Los Angeles--oppose a bill now moving through the state Assembly that would make it easier for a citizen to obtain a concealed weapons permit.

"There are too many handguns, too many gun dealers and too many kids losing their lives to this epidemic, and it needs to stop," said foundation President Gary Yates. He said there are more than 10 times as many gun shops in Los Angeles County as McDonald's restaurants.

The survey, conducted by New York-based research firm EDK Associates, appeared generally consistent with national polls. A 1993 Times poll, taken in the wake of congressional passage of a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases, found that 64% of Americans still believed gun control laws weren't strong enough.

The Los Angeles County poll was conducted March 24-27 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. The Orange County poll was conducted April 3 and 4 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.6 percentage points.

Wednesday's survey is part of a five-year, $40-million anti-violence initiative launched by the Wellness Foundation to reduce the number of deaths from gun violence.

The group, founded in 1992, provides grants to community organizations to develop prevention programs.

Mary Leigh Blek, 50, of Mission Viejo, who heads the Orange County Citizens for the Prevention of Gun Violence, said she was not surprised by the survey results.

"What is surprising is that our legislators are not getting the message" and that they are promoting laws that run counter to public opinion, said Blek, who founded the Orange County organization after her 21-year-old son was shot to death in 1994 with a Saturday night special.

In announcing its findings, the foundation also convened a group of civic leaders, including Los Angeles City Councilwoman Rita Walters, who were interviewed by high school journalists from 13 schools in Los Angeles and Riverside counties about solutions to violence.

"At our age there is nothing that serious that we have to die for," said Ahmad Bulter, 19, a senior at Banning High School in Wilmington, who is a reporter for his school newspaper, the Port Light.

"People care more about weapons than their kids," said Jason Joseph, 17, student body president at Compton High School. He said teens at his school are planning a week of nonviolent demonstrations to dramatize the danger that guns pose to young people.

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