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Commentary | VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES

Take an Extended Holiday From Gun Violence

January 05, 2002|NIKO MILONOPOULOS and THEO MILONOPOULOS | Niko and Theo Milonopoulos, 15-year-old twins, are the cofounders of Kidz Voice-LA and ninth-graders at Campbell Hall High School in North Hollywood.

Many Los Angeles kids have been saved from gun violence by a decade-old city ordinance that prohibits gun dealers from selling ammunition over the holidays.

The holiday ammunition ban, which halts the sale of thousands of bullets from Christmas Day through New Year's Day, is a welcome reprieve in a city where more than 50 kids are shot to death each year.

In late November and early December alone, gun violence claimed the lives of 16-month-old Bryan Angel Tolentino in Boyle Heights as he sat in his car seat; 13-year-old Marquese Rashad Prude as he stood in a South Los Angeles recreation center; 15-year-old Santiago Polanco of Sun Valley as he walked outside his school; and 16-year-old Sean Cochran and 19-year-old Anthony Caldwell as they rode their bikes in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

Why is it so difficult to get the City Council to extend the holiday ammunition ban to a year-round ban?

After all, according to the city's 1999-2000 Legislative Policy on Gun Violence Reduction, Los Angeles "supports all efforts ... that would achieve total gun control." The policy says that the city "sponsors and supports legislation that would enable local jurisdictions to have control over guns within the city limits."

A year-round citywide ban on the sale of ammunition would save the city millions of dollars in health care, emergency services and criminal-related court and prison costs, which come into effect each time someone is shot.

According to the American Medical Assn., taxpayers pay an average of $17,000 per gun injury.

Cities such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., not only ban the sale of all ammunition and guns but also prohibit an individual from possessing these tools of destruction within their city limits.

With a ban on the sale of ammunition in effect year-round, law-abiding individuals still would be able to purchase guns in Los Angeles and keep ammunition in their homes. The real difference would be that ammunition would be less accessible.

On Sept. 7, Councilmen Nick Pacheco and Eric Garcetti introduced a motion to ban the sale of all gun ammunition citywide throughout the year. The initiative was sent to the Public Safety Committee. The proposal stalled as City Hall focused on protecting Angelenos from terrorist attacks.

Metal detectors and concrete barricades have been added at the entrance of City Hall to ensure the safety of city leaders. Now it is time for city leaders to focus on ending the urban terrorism that is killing L.A. kids.

With nearly 1,000 guns sold in California each day, eradicating gun violence in Los Angeles is a most difficult and complex task, but making ammunition less accessible is certainly an easy step in the right direction.

And if the year-round ammunition ban could have saved the life of Bryan, Marquese, Santiago, Sean or Anthony, wouldn't it have been worth it?

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