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Lungren on Assault Weapons Ban

August 31, 1997

Your Aug. 25 article regarding California's troubled assault weapons law cheated readers of important context and facts.

Readers find the first inaccuracy in the second paragraph, where your reporters write that I "agreed" to a delay--that still holds today--preventing me from adding new "copycat" assault weapons to the list of those banned under California law. That assertion also appeared in the accompanying article about a man badly wounded by assault weapon firepower. These statements are plainly false. The current injunction was ordered by the appellate court over my objection.

Amazingly, your reporters contradict themselves by finally correctly noting this fact deep into the article.

In the third paragraph, you proclaim that my office doesn't require proof that registered assault weapons were purchased prior to the law's March 1992 "grandfather" deadline. I repeatedly explained to your reporters that my office requires a statement to be signed by the weapon's owner, under penalty of perjury, that the weapon was acquired before the deadline.

Perjury is a straight felony in California; it is a serious crime.

During the course of my interview with your reporters, they indicated that they had information about individuals who stated their intention to commit perjury when they registered their assault weapons. I repeatedly asked them to provide that information so that my office could pursue lawbreakers. My office has received no response, even though the information was clearly not obtained in a protected "reporter-confidential source" manner. I renew my request that you provide any information regarding assault weapon buyers who may have committed perjury and would also therefore be illegally in the possession of an assault weapon.

California's assault weapons law was the product of legislative compromise. Law enforcers, legislators and your own reporters recognize its many imperfections. Yet The Times gives no recognition to the fact that I sponsored the 1992 legislation to strengthen and clarify (and thereby "constitutionalize") the law. Your article also fails to note that the Legislature under this very law may add new weapons as often as legislators deem necessary. In six years, the Legislature has failed to add a single weapon.

Despite this, California is becoming safer. The reimposition of the death penalty, enactment of tough laws like "three strikes" and truth in sentencing, along with community-based policing has resulted in record drops in California's crime rate. In fact, if these efforts had not forced our homicide rate down 30.4% just since 1993, over 2,100 Californians would not be alive today.

DANIEL E. LUNGREN, Attorney General, Sacramento

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