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Gun control draws vigorous debate across California

Across California over the weekend, some people celebrated their love of guns, while others held events to draw attention to gun violence.

January 20, 2013|By Abby Sewell and Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
  • The Los Angeles Gun Club drew crowds Saturday. Range master Joseph Im said the range had seen an uptick in its ammunition sales since the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn., which has renewed the debate over gun control.
The Los Angeles Gun Club drew crowds Saturday. Range master Joseph Im said… (Michael Robinson Chavez,…)

From shooting ranges to churches, gun control was the subject of vigorous debate over the weekend at various venues across California.

In Sacramento, hundreds rallied in front of the Capitol on Saturday to protest efforts to restrict gun ownership. President Obama has called for an assault weapons ban, a universal background check system for every gun sale and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

At the Los Angeles Gun Club, range master Joseph Im said the downtown facility had seen an uptick in its ammunition sales since the Sandy Hook shooting and the renewed debate over gun control.

Thomas Brambila, 38, and Tamara Vravis, 43, had come to the range on a first date. Brambila said he had grown up target shooting, although he does not own a gun now because he has young children at home. He called Obama's gun control proposal "misguided."

Vravis said she grew up on a ranch in Minnesota, where guns were common. She agreed with Brambila.

"I think if you really want to get a gun, you can get a gun. It's going to hurt the law-abiding citizens," she said of the move to tighten gun laws.

While some people were celebrating their love of guns, others held events to draw attention to gun violence. A network of churches around the country planned a Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, with services centering on community members who have lost family members to gun violence.

The City of Refuge Church in Gardena held special services Sunday to call for efforts to crack down on gun violence. Hollywood Adventist Church held a smaller gathering of a few dozen Saturday.

Carmen Taylor Jones and Darryl Jones spoke about their 15-year-old daughter, Breon Taylor, who was killed five years ago Saturday when two young men shot through a window into the Lakewood Masonic Lodge, where Breon was one of several hundred young people attending a birthday party. Breon and a 17-year-old boy were killed.

It was the day before Taylor Jones' 45th birthday.

"At that moment, in the twinkling of an eye, everyone's lives, some of their destinies were interrupted," Taylor Jones said.

The gunmen who shot into the party, 16 and 19 at the time, were eventually sentenced to a combined 400 years in prison.

Taylor Jones, who grew up in Watts, said she sees memorials for other young people who were gunned down and worries about the safety of her 15-year-old son.

"When he's with me in South Los Angeles, I almost feel like he's a target, like he has a mark on him," she said.

Taylor Jones said she believes the Sandy Hook massacre got people's attention in a way that individual tragedies like her daughter's death couldn't. She called Obama's gun control proposal "a step in the right direction."

"It's just time for us to have some very serious conversations," she said.

The Sacramento protest was one of dozens held at state capitals nationwide as politicians push new gun laws.

They keep adding more and more laws," said Wes Holst, who hosts a radio show about guns in Santa Cruz. "More laws don't prevent crime."

Some people waved flags or hoisted signs saying "Hands off my guns" and "Gun laws don't stop criminals, bullets do," and many spoke fearfully of restrictions they say would leave them defenseless against criminals or even a government they view with suspicion.

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and there were no firearms to be seen at Saturday's rally. A few people wore empty holsters.

Daniel Silverman, an information technology consultant who lives in Tracy, Calif., said he organized the Sacramento event as part of a grass-roots campaign called Guns Across America. He said the rally was not connected to Gun Appreciation Day, which was started by a Republican consulting firm in Washington.

He said politicians have unfairly singled out firearms as the cause of violence. A gun, he said, is only "a piece of plastic, aluminum and steel that does no harm in the hands of good men and women."

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