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Numerous Gun Control Bills Approved by Panel

Times Staff Writer

A legislative committee on Tuesday opened the floodgates and turned loose a torrent of gun control bills, including a measure requiring a 15-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm.

Gov. George Deukmejian, a longtime opponent of many gun controls, has said he favors extending the 15-day waiting period to shotguns and rifles.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee, demonstrating that the momentum for gun control that prompted both houses to approve bills to outlaw military-style assault rifles has not yet abated, approved on Tuesday more than a dozen gun control measures on mostly unanimous bipartisan votes.

The National Rifle Assn. and other pro-gun groups opposed most of the bills but were once again rebuffed. The measures are supported by various law enforcement organizations.

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At one point, recently retired Republican Sen. H. L. Richardson, for years the Legislature’s champion of gun ownership, deplored as irrelevant arguments in favor of limiting the number of bullets a firearm can shoot.

“The length of a (gun) clip is an irrelevancy,” he said, asserting that the key issue is not the size of the magazine but the “mentality” of the person firing the gun.

In some cases, the legislation approved by the committee would impose restrictions that the measures’ supporters contend are even more far-reaching than the two anti-assault gun bills recently passed by the Senate and Assembly. One of those bills would ban assault weapons, while the other would severely limit their number in California. Their differences are likely to be negotiated by a two-house conference committee.

The committee on Tuesday approved one measure by Assemblyman Lloyd Connelly (D-Sacramento) that would require the purchaser of any gun to wait for 15 days before taking possession of it. This would give the Department of Justice time to conduct a background investigation. Now, only handgun buyers must wait 15 days to take possession of their purchase.

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Extending the waiting period is a concept now favored by Deukmejian, who softened his opposition to gun controls after the Jan. 17 slaying of five Stockton schoolchildren by Patrick Purdy, a mentally unstable drifter who sprayed a schoolyard with an AK-47 assault rifle. He wounded 29 students and a teacher and then killed himself with a pistol.

Deukmejian has said he would sign a bill outlawing assault guns provided that it clearly exempts “legitimate” sporting arms.

The Connelly bill also would establish a category of people who, because of mental infirmity, would be prohibited from possessing or buying a gun for five years after they underwent an involuntary psychiatric examination and were found to be a danger to themselves or others. The procedure for involuntary detention and examination exists under the law now.

A similar bill also approved by the committee, by Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks), would make it a felony for any person to possess a firearm who had been convicted of a “violent” misdemeanor.

Another bill strongly supported by law enforcement would impose a 10-bullet limit on the number of rounds a detachable clip could contain. Police representatives have maintained that they are being outgunned by street gang members and other hoodlums armed with semiautomatic weapons that can fire 50 or more rounds without reloading.

“There is no legitimate reason for anyone to have a magazine of greater than 10" rounds, the author, Assemblyman Johan Klehs (D-Castro Valley), told the committee. The bill provides, however, that people whose magazines contain more than 10 bullets could obtain a special permit from the Department of Justice.

Another Klehs bill would make it punishable by up to 12 years in prison to assault someone with any semiautomatic firearm.

Still another bill by Klehs would ban a device that is attached to a trigger in order to enable a semiautomatic weapon to fire bursts much faster than can be accomplished by pulling the trigger with a finger.

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