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Curbs on Security Guards, Weapon Parts Become Law

September 16, 2002|CLAIRE LUNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Gray Davis approved a security package Sunday that makes it illegal to carry weapon replicas or parts at airports and prohibits security guards from working until their background checks have been completed.

Saying that the measures strengthened security statewide by closing legal loopholes, Davis signed state Senate bills 510 and 1241 as a preview of legislation to be approved today at a state homeland defense summit in Ontario.

The weapon measure was introduced by Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena) after two incidents at LAX last spring, one when a passenger tried to smuggle a handgun frame onto a plane and another when two terminals were evacuated after a hand grenade replica was detected in a man's luggage.

Those actions now would be misdemeanors punishable by six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

"This legislation cracks down on people who incite fear and disrupt transportation systems," Davis said Sunday.

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who supported the bill, said that allowing passengers to carry weapon parts means that people could collaborate and assemble a handgun on a plane.

The other bill prevents security guard companies from giving applicants temporary registration cards allowing them to work while undergoing background checks. In one incident, cited by bill sponsor Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), a woman recognized a bank guard as a man who had robbed her five years earlier.

Background checks typically find that about 5% of security guard applicants are convicted felons, Figueroa said.

"When someone sees a security guard, they make the assumption that they're there to improve security, not detract from it," said Newport Beach Police Chief Bob McDonell, president of the California Police Chiefs Assn. Letting guards work before they have been investigated creates "a real false sense of security that I think is unfair to businesses and the people that rely on them."

U.S. funds will be used to buy more digital fingerprinting equipment and hire more investigators, so that the background check turnaround time will be shortened from up to six months to as little as a day, Figueroa said.

Today, Davis is expected to sign bills increasing penalties for possessing weapons of mass destruction, beef up regulations on transporting hazardous materials and expand law enforcement's wiretapping rights, said George Vincent, the governor's security advisor.

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