Tougher Concealed Gun Proposal Defeated : Legislation: Assembly rejects a plan to triple the maximum penalty for violators. NRA opposed the bill.


The Assembly on Monday defeated legislation supported by law enforcement and opposed by the National Rifle Assn. that would increase the maximum penalty for illegally carrying a concealed gun from one year to three years in prison.

The collision of the two powerful interests marked the first test of power in an election year legislative session in which crime and public safety are expected to be dominant themes.

After an emotional debate, 34 members--all Democrats--voted for the bill; 40 Republicans and Democrats voted against it. Passage required 41 votes.


The bill would have empowered district attorneys to file either misdemeanor or felony charges against people arrested for illegally concealing a firearm in their clothing or automobiles. Now, illegal possession of a concealed gun is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Making it a felony would have increased the maximum penalty to three years in state prison.

The vote was a victory for the NRA, which has sought a political comeback after losing the bitterly fought battle over the ban on assault guns in the 1989 legislative session. The NRA long has fought for the right of citizens to arm themselves for protection.

But for Republican Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren and California chiefs of police and sheriffs, defeat of the measure--authored by Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar)--constituted a setback in efforts to get a firmer grip on the illegal use of guns.

Katz forecast that other crime-fighting initiatives restricting the use of guns may face a similar fate this year.

“What this shows is that the NRA (and other gun owner organizations) have people so afraid that they can’t even vote for a law enforcement bill. That’s pathetic,” an angry Katz told reporters.

“If we can’t pass a bill that gives prosecutors an opportunity (to file felony charges), I don’t know how they’re going to pass anything else,” Katz said.


Republicans argued that instead of making otherwise law-abiding citizens potentially subject to a felony, the Legislature should make it easier for them to legally pack pistols and revolvers in their clothing.

“Gun ownership is the best protection from crime,” said Assemblyman Trice Harvey (R-Bakersfield).

Opponents also asserted that in an era when law enforcement cannot assure citizens of protection against criminals, Californians should be granted greater access to concealed weapons permits to defend themselves.

“In spite of all the taxes that you pay, your government cannot protect you,” said Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-Placentia), who opposed the bill. “Now we want to say, ‘You can’t protect yourself either.’ ”

Proponents of the bill contended that stiffer penalties would discourage people who otherwise might carry concealed weapons illegally.

Katz charged that the NRA had wrongly turned the debate into a gun control issue. “This bill doesn’t deprive anyone from buying a gun or from self-protection,” Katz said.


Gun permits are issued by police chiefs and sheriffs based on individual assessments of the applicant’s background and need.

Rural sheriffs issue more permits than their counterparts in big cities. In 1992, the most recent year for which figures are available, there were 427 permit holders in Los Angeles County. In sparsely populated Shasta County, 2,917 residents were licensed.

Statewide, the state Department of Justice reported that there were 33,345 Californians licensed to carry concealed weapons in 1992. A decade earlier, 43,718 were licensed.