Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren filed a lawsuit Wednesday to ban the sale, distribution and importation of the Colt Sporter semiautomatic rifle in California, saying it was nearly identical to the already banned Colt AR-15 assault weapon.
The Superior Court suit broke new ground by trying to add a gun to a list of nearly 60 assault weapons declared illegal in 1989. Lungren said he was "obligated" to sue because "the Colt Sporter rifle is a redesigned, renamed and renumbered version of the banned Colt AR-15 assault rifle."
He said he expected the Colt Manufacturing Co., whose executives declined to comment, to fight the lawsuit in a case that could test the constitutionality of the assault weapon ban. The law allows the courts, at the request of the attorney general, to ban additional guns he considers illegal.
Lungren sought a court order that would temporarily ban the gun, which has been widely advertised and sold in California since October.
Lungren is sponsoring a bill in the Legislature that would give owners of legally acquired assault weapons who failed to register them by last Jan. 1 an extra 90 days to do so without facing punishment. The bill easily cleared the Senate but faces opposition in the Assembly from some Democrats who favor strict gun controls.
One influential Democrat, John Burton of San Francisco, chairman of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, has declared he was unwilling to vote to give assault gun owners a second chance to register unless Lungren sued to put the Colt Sporter or other guns on the banned list.