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Killers Without Prejudice

Junk guns don't discriminate; a peril to all, they should be outlawed

September 02, 1997

The arguments against gun control often are reduced to cliches that miss the real issue. One oldie is, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." But one person cannot kill another by merely pointing a finger.

Now, as the Legislature nears final passage of a bill to outlaw the manufacture and sale of cheap handguns known as Saturday night specials, foes are claiming that the ban would unfairly deny poor people access to firearms.

During a Thursday debate in the Assembly, several Republicans took up the argument made in June by a Democrat from a predominantly black and Latino area of South Los Angeles, Assemblyman Roderick Wright, in arguing against similar gun control legislation. Assemblyman Bernie Richter (R-Chico) said, "This is all about keeping guns out of the hands of poor people." And after the Assembly on Thursday voted approval of Sen. Richard Polanco's (D-Los Angeles) SB 500, an aide to Gov. Pete Wilson wondered whether a ban on these shoddily made purveyors of mayhem might preclude law-abiding poor people, and particularly women, from defending them- selves.

This is a decidedly cynical view of the people's ability to legislate for the general welfare. Carried to the extreme, the argument would be that every person should be given a gun for protection.

The Wilson aide's comments were taken as a signal that the governor might veto the bill. But Polanco said that law enforcement groups, including California police chiefs and sheriffs, would press him to sign it. The lawmen are the experts. Their pleas should be heeded.

Another cliche heard Thursday was that the legislation would not take guns out of the hands of criminals, especially young gang members for whom the junk guns are a readily available weapon. Of course it won't, not overnight. But Los Gatos Police Chief Larry Todd said that eventually the market for Saturday night specials would disappear.

What's the alternative? More guns and more death. The dead will be the poor and the not poor, the armed and unarmed, criminals and crime victims, police officers and far too many children. There will be more funerals, more grief, more parents burying the young lights of their lives. These wretched little guns don't distinguish on the basis of economic class, race, gender or age. They kill all. That is what they are made to do.

That much death is no cliche.

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