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Protest Planned as Westminster Weighs Ban of Assault Rifles

Times Staff Writer

A group of county gun owners plans to protest tonight when Westminster City Council considers an ordinance to bar the sale of semiautomatic weapons in the city.

City Manager Jerry Kenny said the proposed ordinance, which would be effective immediately upon approval, is prompted by “a feeling of urgency” by the City Council after the fatal shootings of five Stockton schoolchildren and “the availability of weapons in our city.”

But if the council adopts the ordinance, the gun control opponents threatened Monday to start a recall effort against council members, as well as file legal action challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance, said Loren Werner, co-chairman of the Anaheim-based React Committee.

“How far we go along with these things, depends to a great extent on what happens at the (council) meeting,” Werner said.

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Werner--

The React Committee members will be at the council meeting in force to argue against the proposed ban, he said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there were several hundred people,” he said.

The React Committee has about 60 members, most of whom are county residents, Werner said. The group formed about a month before a drifter armed with an AK-47 semiautomatic assault rifle killed five children and wounded more than two dozen others on a Stockton schoolyard in January.

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“There is no relationship” between that shooting and the committee’s formation, Werner said.

Although the proposed ordinance is not scheduled for a public hearing, the council may vote to open the matter to public discussion.

City Councilwoman Anita Huseth said she has not decided on her vote yet: “We have a lot of people calling on both sides, and I don’t think that it’s fair to make a decision before the meeting.”

City Councilman Frank Fry Jr. said late Monday, “This is a no-win situation” and added: “I don’t think that would be right to have a recall against someone who’s making a decision to the best of his ability to protect the populace.”

City Councilwoman Joy L. Neugebauer said she is leaning against the ordinance because “it puts in jeopardy one of the rights that the Constitution gives us.”

But she added, “Since I represent the people, I will be listening to them with an open mind.”

Two stores in Westminster, B&B; Sales and the Stockade, sell the rapid-firing weapons.

Jack Challacombe, 58, an employee at the Stockade, said he and perhaps other store employees will be among those protesting the proposal.

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“Whether I get an opportunity to open my yap remains to be seen,” he said. “We hope everybody behaves in a restrained manner, so we don’t blow our cause.”

The Stockade has sold its supply of semiautomatic weapons since assault rifles began making headlines recently, Challacombe said.

“They cleaned us out,” he said of rifle buyers. “We probably sold a couple of dozen, and most of our suppliers are cleaned out, and we can’t get them anymore.”

He said the store would support a law requiring a 15-day waiting period before people could buy the weapons while their backgrounds are checked.

Buyers of semiautomatic weapons are now required only to present identification and fill out a form saying they are not a convicted felon, an illegal alien or a person with a background of mental instability. Federal law does not require a background check for prospective buyers, and just three states have waiting periods.


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