Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Tarzana) on Thursday could have joined a majority of his colleagues in voting to approve a controversial bill to ban the sale and possession of military-style assault weapons.
Or he could have sided with opponents of the bill by Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles).
Instead, he abstained from casting a vote on the measure, which was approved and sent to the Assembly by a 27-12 margin.
“I did not want to make any comment critical of Sen. Roberti,” Robbins said. Even though Roberti pressed him to support the measure, Robbins said: “I didn’t feel I could give him what he wanted, but I felt that the kindest I could be . . . was to sit quietly at my desk.”
Roberti acknowledged that he urged Robbins to support his bill but did not consider it “untoward pressure.” He quickly added that he was not offended by his colleague’s abstention.
The bill would ban the manufacture, sale, general possession and transfer of semiautomatic military assault weapons, such as the Soviet-designed AK-47. It is sponsored by top law-enforcement officers throughout the state.
While he did not object to the measure on the floor, Robbins in an interview criticized Roberti’s bill and said he opposes gun controls.
Robbins said that if Roberti’s proposal is approved in the Assembly and signed into law by Gov. George Deukmejian, it would be a step toward further restrictions on guns.
“I feel that this bill which deals with weapons like the AK-47 could potentially be used against individuals and law-abiding citizens who have small weapons for protection in their homes,” he said.
Robbins said that calls and letters to his office have overwhelmingly opposed Roberti’s bill. He said the tally was 1,361 against and 398 for the measure.
While Robbins was abstaining, Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), a former Los Angeles police chief, championed the opposition. He assailed the proposal as an unconstitutional restriction on the right to bear arms.
Besides Davis, another San Fernando Valley-area lawmaker, Sen. Newton Russell (R-Glendale), opposed the Roberti bill. In addition to Roberti, among those favoring the measure were Sens. Gary Hart (D-Santa Barbara) and Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles).