Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Feuer came into office two years ago as a progressive, Harvard-educated attorney and the former head of Bet Tzedek legal clinic. He replaced Zev Yaroslavsky, who resigned to run for county supervisor. Although Feuer's election campaign focused primarily on his promises to adopt tougher ethics rules for city lawmakers, he also talked about his interest in cracking down on gun violence. In the past few weeks, Feuer has attempted to do exactly that by proposing a slew of new ordinances aimed at reducing the number of shooting deaths in Los Angeles. In this interview, he talks about his proposed legislation and why he thinks it will make a difference.
Question: Can you explain your recent motions on gun control and explain what your goals are?
Answer: At the outset, it's most important to emphasize that for the first time we have a number of cities within metropolitan Los Angeles working together on a common agenda related to stemming gun violence. There are mayors or city council members in cities from San Fernando to Long Beach who are committed to advancing an agenda that begins with the measures that have been introduced.
The motions that are on the table now are designed to take steps to reduce access to ammunition among criminals, and improve the safety of guns that are held by lawful gun owners. We also want to improve the standards by which gun shops, pawnbrokers and others conduct their day-to-day business when it comes to guns.
One proposal is to ban the sale of ammunition to convicted felons and other dangerous criminals. To effectuate that goal, we would put in place an ammunition permit program, under which one would submit an application to the Department of Justice, which would perform a background check to assure that one does not have a violent criminal history. That information would then be returned to the local police department and a permit would be issued to those without violent criminal histories.
Next, there is a package of measures that address the safety of guns and standards for gun store owners. The first is a requirement that trigger locks be sold when a gun is sold. The reason for that is the number of accidental shootings that take place in the homes of lawful gun owners who aren't aware, for example, that the gun was left loaded and accessible to a youngster.
Second, there is a provision that requires thumb printing along with registration when one purchases ammunition. Los Angeles currently has a skeletal ammunition registration law on the books. But the police have told us that there's no way to effectively track the purchaser without a thumbprint or some other identifying characteristic.
Another requirement is that there be background checks of employees of gun store owners and pawnbrokers who sell guns. This requirement would reduce the likelihood of guns being transferred by gun stores and pawnbrokers to those who shouldn't have them.
Still another requirement would be to preclude the transfer of [cheaply made guns known as] Saturday night specials through licensed gun shops. There's a loophole in the law regarding Saturday night specials currently that would enable one to transfer the guns to someone else, particularly through an intermediary, a gun store, and we ought to be precluding that from happening in the future.
The last item on the agenda is a ban on the sale of magazines containing 10 or more rounds of ammunition. The federal government has banned the manufacture of those magazines. But there is no prohibition on the sale of existing stock. We should be prohibiting the sale of magazines whose key purpose is to shoot a number of bullets in rapid succession, which is to say to use one's gun aggressively, rather than in a defensive manner.
Q: You've been in office now for two years here. Why are you coming out now with this package?
A: We see the impact of gun violence on our streets [in] the way the people are compelled to sleep in bathtubs in some neighborhoods. People shouldn't be compelled to live this way. The North Hollywood incident riveted public attention on the issue of guns and violence in our society, and it seems to me that when we have the ability to focus public attention on this issue, we ought to seize that opportunity to try to enact reasonable measures to reduce violence on our streets.
Q: Since the state has ultimate jurisdiction on gun control, aren't you talking about a backdoor way to allow local governments to make gun control laws?