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L.A. councilman seeks ban on ammo for high-capacity gun magazines

Paul Krekorian requests a feasibility report on a possession ban, saying that 'high-capacity magazines pose a daily threat to our citizens and police officers.'

January 16, 2013|By Wesley Lowery, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian wants the city to explore the feasibility of banning the possession of ammunition for high-capacity gun magazines, the first step toward instituting stricter city gun and ammunition laws.

Although the California penal code now prohibits the manufacture and sale of magazines that hold more than 10 bullets, Krekorian said in a council motion Tuesday that a ban on the possession of the magazines within city limits could further improve public safety.

"The element missing from the state prohibition on high-capacity magazines is possession," Krekorian said in an interview with The Times.

Although gun rights advocates frequently describe high-capacity ammunition bans as "feel-good" measures, Krekorian said prohibiting their possession would give police a way to stop potential mass shooters before a tragedy can take place.

"I'm not interested in doing something that will have no effect," Krekorian said. "I'm interested in doing something that will prevent the kinds of slaughters we experience too often — whether it's school shootings, shootouts with the police or drive-bys by gangbangers."

Krekorian's motion cited the 1997 North Hollywood shootout — during which two bank robbers fired thousands of automatic weapon rounds at responding officers — as well as the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The motion asks that the Los Angeles Police Department, the city attorney and the city legislative analyst look into the feasibility, effectiveness and benefits of such a ban. It marks the first formal request by a council member to look into a potential ban, according to Krekorian's spokesperson.

Second Amendment advocates have widely decried city, state and federal high-capacity ammunition bans. Representatives from both the Gun Owners of America and National Rifle Assn. have previously said the bans restrict the ability of law-abiding gun owners from defending themselves.

"If the city of Los Angeles is looking to find new ways to waste taxpayer money, a proposal along the lines of banning the possession of instruments currently legal to own would certainly be one way to do it," said Brandon Combs, executive director of Calguns Foundation, a California-based 2nd Amendment advocacy group.

Although Combs said it's reasonable to consider bans on "true high-capacity magazines" holding more than 30 bullets, bans on 10 to 20 bullet magazines being pushed into law across the country are infringing on the rights of gun owners to protect themselves.

Meanwhile, a ban would do nothing to curb the behavior of criminals, who probably will continue to use high-capacity magazines even where they are illegal, he said.

"These criminals who commit mass shootings are not interested in listening to the Los Angeles City Council," Combs said. "I'd like to see some evidence that suggests a ban on high-capacity magazines has any effect on crime at all."

He noted that other California cities — including San Francisco and San Jose — have also pushed new gun and ammunition restrictions in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

While other Los Angeles City Council members have supported a national ban on assault weapons and called for city investment funds to sell any stock they might hold in companies that make or sell such guns, the request for this report is the first step toward curbing high-capacity ammunition at the city level since the mass shooting in Connecticut.

The December shooting in Newtown, which left 27 dead, including 20 children and the gunman, and last week's shooting at Taft Union High School in Kern County have re-energized discussions of gun control measures among Los Angeles politicians.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck bumped up the annual gun buyback program and have increased the police presence in schools. The mayor has also scheduled a news conference Wednesday to further address gun violence.

Meanwhile, all four mayoral hopefuls — including current council members Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti — have called for the renewal of the federal assault weapons ban.

Combs said if there was going to be a renewed conversation about gun control, he hopes the politicians who have added gun safety measures to their platforms and stump speeches open the discussion to 2nd Amendment advocates.

"Are these city officials going to invite us to the table? Or is this just going to be them passing restrictive gun laws they've already decided they want to see pass?" Combs said. "Hopefully, our elected officials are reaching out to gun rights organizations if they're truly interested in having a conversation."

wesley.lowery@latimes.com

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