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NRA Pitch Angers 2 L.A. Officials

Councilmen object to membership appeals in Glock packages at Police Academy gun shop.

September 26, 2003|Richard Winton and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

When it comes to gun policies, the city of Los Angeles and the National Rifle Assn. could hardly be farther apart. Los Angeles passed one of the nation's first assault weapons bans and has pushed other measures opposing the proliferation of firearms, while the NRA tirelessly defends the right to bear arms.

So two City Council members were outraged to learn that Los Angeles police officers are receiving solicitations to join the NRA when they buy Glock pistols at the city Police Academy's gun shop. The membership pitch is sealed inside the packaging with the gun's warranty and safety information.

"I would like this stopped," said Councilman Jack Weiss.

Officials at Glock said they had meant no harm. The solicitations are included in every Glock package "kind of like an offer to join AAA when you buy your new Ford," said Kevin Connor, the gun maker's lawyer. But Connor said that, if city officials have concerns, Glock will be happy to listen.

A spokesman for the NRA, however, said city officials should "have better things to do than looking into this -- like preventing crime."

"These people must be reading the Communist Manifesto, not the Bill of Rights," said Richard Cabral, NRA field representative for Southern California. "Criminals and crime are the problem, not guns."

The Glocks, lightweight, .40-caliber guns popularized in rap music, became an option for LAPD officers on Aug. 26, when the Police Commission ruled that officers could buy them and use them in place of department-issued Beretta models.

Police Chief William J. Bratton pushed for the Glock's use, saying 70% of police departments nationwide use the weapon, as do the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

An LAPD officer who bought a Glock and found the NRA solicitation notified the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, according to Luis Tolley, the campaign's director of state legislation. Tolley notified Weiss.

"It makes it appear that this is something that is being sponsored or endorsed by the LAPD," and officers might think they're being encouraged to join the NRA, Tolley said.

This week, Weiss and Councilman Eric Garcetti submitted a motion asking the Police Department to explain how the solicitations had gotten into the packaging.

Assistant Police Chief Jim McDonnell said the LAPD had been unaware that its officers were receiving the solicitations until it had been alerted by the council members' objections. McDonnell said officials would "look at this issue," although he noted that the store, the Los Angeles Police Revolver & Athletic Club, is independent of the department.

The store is run by LAPD officers, and only law enforcement officers may shop there. The shop often heeds department advice. Earlier this year, when the City Council outlawed the sale of .50-caliber firearms to the public, the store stopped selling them at Bratton's request, even though police officers were allowed to buy them elsewhere.

If the police chief advised the club that the NRA solicitation "was not a good idea, we'd be receptive to telling Glock to stop the solicitation," said Jim Voge, an LAPD captain and president of the club.

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