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L.A. council tightens gun control laws

The move is intended to reduce gun and gang violence. NRA lawyer says a lawsuit is likely.

December 18, 2008|Maeve Reston

The Los Angeles City Council approved a package of gun control laws Wednesday, placing new requirements on ammunition sellers and banning the sale of military-style ammunition in the hopes of further reducing the city's gun and gang violence.

The measures ban the sale of .50-caliber ammunition, capable of penetrating a car's engine, and would require the city's ammunition vendors to be licensed, to sell ammunition face-to-face instead of over the Internet and require gun dealers to report a full accounting of their inventory twice a year to the Police Department.

The council passed laws prohibiting the installation of secret compartments for guns in cars and allowing the city to permanently seize vehicles used by certain gang members during a crime, which was proposed by City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo.

The council also approved an ordinance that would allow landlords to evict tenants who are convicted of illegally possessing weapons or ammunition within 1,000 feet of the rental property.

A lawyer for the National Rifle Assn. said his client probably would file suit to block some of the measures.

Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who helped develop the ordinances with Councilman Jack Weiss and other members, praised the package at a news conference before the vote.

"We use this to stop a vehicle," Bratton said, holding up a .50-caliber bullet longer and thicker than a finger. "Unless you are out trying to kill Godzilla, and I think the last time we saw Godzilla was in the 1950s, there is no need for this type of weapon" unless it is in the hands of the military or law enforcement, he said.

Villaraigosa dismissed questions about whether the ammunition restrictions would have a practical effect since buyers could simply purchase the bullets over the Internet or in cities where the laws do not apply.

"Part of what we're doing here is leading the way," Villaraigosa said, stating that the measures are another tool to fight gun violence and that he hoped other cities and President-elect Barack Obama's administration would follow suit. "This is the most far-reaching effort of any big city in the country. . . . This isn't about symbolism; it's about results."

The council approved the measures unanimously.

But C.D. Michel, a Long Beach attorney who represents the National Rifle Assn. and the California Rifle & Pistol Assn., said his clients were likely to sue over the new laws governing ammunition sales and vendors because they either conflict with or are duplicated by state law.

Michel, the law partner of city attorney candidate Carmen A. Trutanich, also questioned the effectiveness of the ammunition measures, noting that there are only a handful of gun vendors left in the city and buyers could go elsewhere.

"A lot of these don't really do what the sound bite would portray them as doing," said Michel, who accused Weiss of pushing the measures to get publicity for his own campaign for city attorney. "It's about trying to look like you're doing something when you're not really doing anything. . . . My clients will just just challenge the ones that are illegal in court."

Weiss, who introduced four of the ordinances and is chairman of the city's public safety committee, addressed the possibility of legal challenges by the NRA at the news conference. "I think the message from everyone up here to the NRA is pretty simple: Make our day. We will fight you in court. We will win," Weiss said.

Weiss has criticized Trutanich's associations with the NRA, which is likely to be an issue in the city attorney's race.

After several council members received a letter from Michel on the letterhead of the Trutanich-Michel firm challenging several proposed gun and ammunition ordinances, Weiss called on his opponent to "fire the NRA as a client or quit the race for city attorney."

Weiss' campaign also circulated a news article to reporters in which Trutanich refers to the NRA as his client.

But when Weiss raised the issue in early December, Trutanich released a statement stating that the NRA is not his client, he is not a member of the organization and he disagrees with many of the NRA's positions. His campaign manager said he was misquoted when he referred to the NRA as a client in the August news article.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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