It’s Time to Pass That Gun Bill
When Bismarck remarked that no one who cared about law or sausage should ever witness either being made, he might have had a premonition of what it would be like to watch the California Legislature painfully dragging itself toward some reasonable controls on deadly semiautomatic assault weapons.
It’s not a pretty sight, all this haggling over human life, and there is no defensible reason to prolong it.
Monday night, the Assembly passed and returned to the Senate a bill that would outlaw the manufacture and sale of 60 specificed semiautomatic rifles, shotguns and pistols, which originally were designed for use against human beings. The measure, which was introduced by Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles) also would require the current owners of such weapons to register them.
The Senate now should vote its concurrence with the Assembly’s version of the bill, and send it to Gov. George Deukmejian. He already has said he will sign a measure that clearly distinguishes between semiautomatic firearms designed for combat and those with a legitimate sporting application. The Roberti bill does so and it ought to be put on Deukmejian’s desk as quickly as possible.
The Senate also has before it a measure by Assemblyman Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles), which differs only in minor ways from the Roberti proposal. Like other advocates of sensible gun regulation, we once hoped that passage of both bills would permit a conference committee to write a generic definition of an assault weapon into the law. Such a provision would prevent irresponsible gun-makers from modifying their weapons just enough to take them off the list of those proscribed.
However, since the Roberti bill passed the Assembly by the narrowest possible margin, we agree with Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) that the uncertainties inherent in a joint conference committee pose too great a threat to this vital legislation.
Monday’s vote in the Assembly came precisely three months after a madman with a history or drug abuse and petty crime sprayed a Stockton elementary school playground with a legally purchased assault rifle. Five children were murdered that day and 29 others and a teacher were wounded. That it required the slaughter of innocents to spur the Legislature into consideration of this issue is a scandal. Failure to act now would be worse.