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LAPD to Pull Pitches

Department will ensure that pistols issued to recruits do not contain NRA solicitations.

September 30, 2003|Richard Winton and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles Police Department will remove National Rifle Assn. membership solicitations from boxes containing the Beretta pistols it buys and issues to recruits, Assistant Chief George Gascon said Monday.

The discount NRA memberships offered to all buyers of Berretta guns were discovered by supervisors at the Police Academy. The tussle over the leaflets is the latest skirmish between the city of Los Angeles, with its tough restrictions on firearms, and the NRA, with its tireless defense of the right to bear arms.

The move follows criticism by City Council members of similar solicitations found in boxes of Glock pistols sold at the privately run Police Academy gun shop.

Gascon said the LAPD has authority to order removal of such solicitations from the packaging of guns that the department issues directly to recruits.

In contrast, Gascon said the Constitution's guarantee of free speech would prevent the department from directing the academy store, operated by the independent Los Angeles Police Revolver & Athletic Club, to remove such solicitations.

"This is a 1st Amendment issue," he said.

Only law enforcement officers are permitted to shop at the academy store, which is in Elysian Park. In the past, the club has removed items from the store at the chief's suggestion.

Last week, council members Jack Weiss and Eric Garcetti criticized the store for stocking guns containing the solicitations.

On Monday, Weiss praised the department's decision about recruits' weapons.

"It would be a concern if new LAPD officers were given the impression that the LAPD endorses the NRA," he said.

"I hope they will take this one step further and see to it that other gun manufacturers don't get to deliver a pro-NRA message to LAPD officers either," Weiss said.

According to an internal LAPD memorandum, a review has found that the solicitations inside the Glock packaging are far from unique and that other manufacturers -- Smith & Wesson, Berretta and Remington -- include the same kind of coupon for discount membership inside sealed packaging of their weapons.

Officials at Glock called the solicitation "kind of like an offer to join AAA when you buy your new Ford."

NRA officials have questioned whether the city's resources would be better spent fighting crime than trying to prevent the NRA from reaching out to new members.

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