The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday refused to ban the sale of semiautomatic assault weapons within unincorporated areas, choosing instead to toss the hot political issue to the Legislature.
At the same time, Los Angeles city officials warned gun owners that the city as of midnight Tuesday will begin enforcing its ban on the possession of Uzis, AK-47s and other rapid-fire arms. Sales of such weapons have been forbidden in the city since Feb. 7.
The five-member Board of Supervisors, on the other hand, voted along ideological lines Tuesday in refusing to impose a similar ban on such weapons. Liberals Kenneth Hahn and board Chairman Ed Edelman favored the measure. The three conservatives, Mike Antonovich, Deane Dana and Pete Schabarum, were opposed.
Schabarum later joined Edelman and Hahn in shifting the responsibility to the Legislature, where a variety of assault weapon measures face an uncertain future.
Schabarum told the board he could support a ban on seven specific semiautomatic assault weapons, including the Uzi and AK-47. On a motion by Edelman, the board voted, 3 to 2, to ask the Legislature to include the seven weapons in any bill it might ultimately approve.
Representatives of religious organizations who favored the county ban were hissed and booed by opponents during more than an hour of debate on the issue. Opponents also shook wristwatches at Hahn when they felt he took too much time discussing the ban, which he had sponsored.
“It’s not guns (that cause problems), it’s the people behind them,” testified one opponent, Caron Salzer, representing the Liberty Coalition Against Crime.
Salzer and other opponents repeatedly said that prison terms should be increased for people convicted of using guns to commit crimes, plea bargaining should be eliminated and judges should hand out stiffer sentences.
Los Angeles city prohibits the sale and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons, center-fire rifles, carbines that accept detachable magazines with a capacity of 20 rounds or more and shotguns with barrels of 18 inches or less and a capacity of more than six rounds.
The maximum penalty for illegally possessing such weapons is six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who sponsored the city’s urgency measure last month, said owners of such weapons have three ways to comply with the law: turn the weapons in to police, move them outside the city limits or render them permanently inoperable.
Other cities in Los Angeles County that have enacted bans on military-style assault rifles are Bellflower, Carson, Compton and Gardena. South El Monte’s City Council has tentatively approved a similar measure.