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Proposal Targets Gun Theft

May 23, 2006|Stephen Clark | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined with gun control advocates Monday to call for a city law requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons.

They also declared their opposition to proposed federal legislation that they say would weaken gun control laws.

"How many times have you heard about a crime on the evening news or read about a senseless shooting and asked the simple question: 'Where did the gun come from?' " Villaraigosa said at a City Hall news conference. "The answer is a critical element to solving crime."

Villaraigosa said a proposal pending in Congress, HR 5005, would thwart law enforcement's ability to identify rogue gun dealers. The bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from sharing gun trace data.

"A thousand new officers are on the way," Villaraigosa said in reference to the city's plan to beef up hiring, "but our police officers also need every available tool to catch criminals, and they need our support to crack down on illegal gun trafficking."

City Councilman Jack Weiss, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said he would introduce a city ordinance today that would call for the prosecution of gun owners who don't report stolen or missing weapons within 48 hours. Conviction would be a misdemeanor.

"It is my goal that the ordinance will make a modest but important dent in gun violence," Weiss said, explaining that it would help aid the Los Angeles Police Department in its crime investigations. "When your gun is lost or stolen, you report it in 48 hours or you can go to jail."

Similar laws exist in the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley

Weiss also announced that the Legal Community Against Violence, a public interest law center in the Bay Area dedicated to preventing gun violence, would conduct a pro bono audit of the city's gun laws to identify areas that might need revision.

Gun control groups across the country have started a campaign to raise awareness about the consequences of illegal guns and to announce initiatives that undermine them.

Villaraigosa and Weiss were joined by members of Women Against Gun Violence and LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, who said about 8,000 illegal guns were seized in Los Angeles in 2004 and 10,000 in 2005.

"Guns, gangs and dope are our biggest problems in the city relative to violent crime," McDonnell said. Despite a declining crime rate, he added, innocent bystanders still die from gun violence.

To illustrate that point, Tim Heyne, a rock band manager, recounted the horror of a shooting spree last year in Thousand Oaks that claimed the lives of his wife and best friend and left him seriously wounded.

"I hear a lot of people say, 'Gun violence, that's an urban problem, that's a gang problem, it's a drug problem,' " Heyne said. But the fact that the shooting spree happened in a relatively safe neighborhood, he said, shows that "it's your problem. It's our problem."

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