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Lawsuit Targets Gun Control Ordinance

Weapons: Arms dealers, movie prop firms say city lacks jurisdiction to regulate sales.

November 15, 1997|GREG KRIKORIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An unusual alliance of gun dealers and suppliers of props to the entertainment industry filed a lawsuit Friday challenging Los Angeles' latest gun control ordinance, saying it would not only violate the state licenses of thousands of gun owners but would prohibit the filming of so-called action movies in the city.

Specifically, the lawsuit says that the city lacks the jurisdiction to regulate gun sales and to supersede the state Department of Justice licenses through its pending citywide ban on the sale of magazines and clips that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

And although the ordinance exempts law enforcement and the military, the plaintiffs argue that the city, in a rush to enact the ban, failed to exempt state-licensed dealers of both fully automatic firearms, such as machine guns, and semiautomatic firearms designated as "assault weapons."

"The city of Los Angeles is making it impossible to film an action movie in the city. And that is what happens when you combine political arrogance with technical ignorance," said attorney Chuck Michel, who is representing the coalition of plaintiffs, including several UCLA professors.

A representative of the Los Angeles city attorney's office declined to comment on the suit, saying officials had not yet read it.

The city ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect Friday, was among a package of gun control measures approved by the council last month. Written by Councilman Mike Feuer and supported by Police Chief Bernard C. Parks and the Police Commission, the measures seek to curb violence, both intentional and accidental, linked to firearms.

But in an effort to block the ordinance's enactment, the coalition of business owners and private citizens filed a request for an immediate restraining order and eventually a permanent injunction against the law.

As written, the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit, the ordinance would not only diminish the value of gun collectors' weapons, including older firearms with large magazines, but prohibit local museums and historical societies from adding to their collections of antique weapons "that are part of our national heritage."

For example, the lawsuit says, a pre-World War II FN Browning Model 1935, worth perhaps $3,000 depending on its condition, would be among the many firearms that would be unsalable with its original 13-shot magazine. And if it were fitted with a 10-round magazine to conform to the law, it would no longer be a collector's item.

In addition, the lawsuit says, the ordinance would make illegal every currently available fully automatic firearm, notwithstanding the fact that the state has issued more than 12,000 civilian licenses for such weapons in California.

And, on a broader scale, the lawsuit says that the ordinance would devastate the filming of action movies in the city by prohibiting entertainment companies from renting fully automatic firearms used in productions.'

"The . . . politicians who drafted this ordinance are so ignorant of firearm technology and of the firearms business that they made a mistake that will cost the city millions of dollars in lost business in the film industry," said attorney Michel.

The plaintiffs include EFX Film & TV Inc. and B & B Sales, the North Hollywood sporting goods store that provided Los Angeles police with semiautomatic weapons during their highly publicized Feb. 28 shootout with two heavily armed bank robbers.

The guns used by police were recently auctioned off by B & B with the $7,200 in proceeds going to the Los Angeles Police Memorial Fund, Michel said.

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