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Council Revives Plan to Ban Sale of Assault Rifles

Times Staff Writer

A proposal to ban the local sale of semiautomatic assault weapons was unexpectedly resuscitated this week by the City Council amid complaints that the council was making end runs around its own committees.

By a 7-2 vote, the council refused to go along with a recommendation by two committees to shelve the proposal, and instead asked the city attorney to draw up an ordinance outlawing the sale of the kind of rapid-fire weapons that last year were used to kill 10 people in the city. The proposal will be considered at the council’s April 4 meeting.

‘Not Acceptable’

Earlier this month, the council’s Legislation and Public Safety committees concluded there were too many questions about such a ban’s legality and effectiveness. But the full council was considerably more enthusiastic about regulating semiautomatic assault weapons, commonly used in the drive-by gang shootings that plague inner-city areas.

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“These military-type weapons are not acceptable on the streets . . . anywhere in Long Beach,” Councilman Warren Harwood said.

In the wake of the schoolyard killings of five Stockton children by a gunman firing an AK-47 assault rifle, the cities of Los Angeles and Compton recently outlawed the guns’ sale and possession. The Senate and Assembly have each passed versions of a statewide ban, but the legislation must be reconciled before it can be sent to the governor.

In the meantime, the majority of the council appears inclined to have Long Beach take its own stand against the military-style guns, which can be purchased across the counter with the ease of buying a tube of toothpaste.

As outlined Tuesday, the proposal would outlaw the sale of assault weapons, but not their possession--an apparent concession to the difficulties of getting such weapons out of the hands of current owners.

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The move to revive the ban raised objections from three councilmen who protested that their committee work was being ignored and that the council was acting too hastily.

‘Not a Local Issue’

“What we are seeing here is an end run,” insisted Councilman Les Robbins, a veteran member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who advocates a state ban. “This is not a local issue. . . . We need a state law,” contended Robbins, who along with Councilman Jeffrey A. Kellogg voted against the proposal.

Kellogg and Councilman Ray Grabinski angrily argued that they had no inkling there would be an attempt to revive the gun ban at this week’s council meeting. “What we’re doing again is coming up with instant government,” Grabinski said, although he later voted with the majority to draw up an anti-assault rifle ordinance.

Grabinski appeared particularly irritated with Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, who joined Councilman Clarence Smith and Vice Mayor Wallace Edgerton in leading the vote to revive the assault rifle proposal. Braude, Grabinski pointedly noted, is chairman of one of the committees that recommended the proposal be shelved.

Braude later said he was in favor of local regulation of assault weapons when the matter was considered by his committee, but knew he was alone in his support of it.

Smith, who made the motion to draft the ban, said: “I have kids in my community who are afraid to go out and play and can’t sleep at night . . . I don’t know about instant government, but this killing has been going on for a long time.”

After hearing his colleagues exchange verbal shots, Edgerton attempted to downplay the friction. “The council is not divided. . . . We are all together,” he insisted.

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