GUN-CONTROL WATCH : Pistol Whipped

Thousands of firearms and rounds of ammunition vanished from gun dealerships when rioting and looting swept across Los Angeles last April. Though chilling, the looters' seemingly systematic targeting of gun shops has forced political leaders to come to grips with reality: There are more than enough gun dealerships in Los Angeles.

That's why, to their considerable credit, 11 members of the Los Angeles City Council tentatively approved an ordinance Tuesday that would give zoning officials the authority to hold hearings before a new gun shop could open and the power to deny permits for particular sites, to limit a store's hours and to prohibit the sale of single bullets. An additional proposal would place more controls on pawnshops and secondhand stores.

The National Rifle Assn. opposes the legislation for the same reason it opposes all forms of legal and sensible gun regulation--because it believes that the right to own and sell firearms should essentially be unrestricted.

The association conveniently ignores the fact that it has become far too easy to obtain a gun in Los Angeles. Los Angeles County has more federally licensed gun dealers than any other county in the United States--more than 3,000--one-third in the city of Los Angeles alone.

Next week, the council should pass the final version of the ordinance, and it also should push the Police Commission to be more aggressive about enforcing city laws that require gun dealers to be registered and fingerprinted and to pay fees.

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