Brandishing Fake Guns Outlawed : Wieder Also Urges County to Study Ban on Real Firearms

Times County Bureau Chief

As the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to make it illegal to brandish fake guns, Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder urged the board to consider a gun control measure that would ban possession of real firearms.

With her colleagues on the board listening in stunned silence, Wieder said that the 5-0 vote outlawing threatening displays of replica guns "does open the door on this discussion" and that firearms are "2 times, 10 times, 100 times as dangerous" as replicas.

Board Chairman Roger R. Stanton quickly limited the supervisors' action to the question of "look-alike" guns, and the supervisors took no official notice of Wieder's suggestions.

Los Angeles County has also enacted a fake-gun ordinance, and Anaheim and Costa Mesa have similar laws. A newly enacted state law on the same subject is to take effect Jan. 1.

Wieder said at the supervisors' meeting that she would have her staff and other county staff study the broader issue of gun control and see whether the county's lobbyists in Sacramento and Washington could develop legislation.

Afterward, Supervisors Stanton, Don R. Roth and Gaddi H. Vasquez said they thought current laws on gun control are satisfactory. Sheriff Brad Gates agreed. Supervisor Thomas F. Riley could not be reached for comment.

Past efforts in other U.S. jurisdictions to stiffen restrictions on gun possession or to ban firearms have met with strong opposition, with opponents arguing that the constitutional right to bear arms bars such laws. Wieder said she was aware of the opposition but still wanted a closer look at the issue.

In urging the supervisors to ban the brandishing of replicas, Gates displayed the type of guns he considers dangerous. He showed the supervisors models of a .45-caliber revolver, a Uzi submachine gun, a pistol with a two-inch barrel and other weapons he said had been seized by police agencies from people brandishing or possessing them.

Wieder said that "from time immemorial little boys played with guns, but I guess now big men play with their toys, too."

Gates and California Highway Patrol Capt. Steve Malone cited several instances in which officers have been confronted by men wielding model guns and stressed that even at close range the weapons appear real, forcing the officers to draw their own guns.

Gates said that last Wednesday a 26-year-old man phoned the Sheriff's Department, said he was going to kill himself and displayed what appeared to be the butt of a gun in his pocket when deputies arrived.

The deputies drew their guns and physically subdued the man, Gates said. The weapon turned out to be a look-alike of a revolver, and the suspect told hospital personnel that he had hoped that the deputies would shoot him.

Man With Uzi Replica

Malone said that last month CHP officers stopped a man "menacing passing cars on the (Interstate 5) freeway" with what eventually turned out to be a black plastic squirt gun that looked like a Uzi submachine gun. Because the man did not break any law in the presence of the officers, he was turned loose, Malone said.

Gates and Malone urged the supervisor to recommend that cities in their districts pass similar laws banning the threatening use of replica guns.

Violation of the Orange County ordinance is punishable by up to six months in jail.

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