State Sen. David A. Roberti, who faces an April recall election mounted by gun activists, Wednesday called on the state attorney general to immediately add "copy cat" assault rifles--particularly those patterned after the AR-15 like the gun used in Tuesday's killing of a rookie policewoman--to the state's list of banned weapons.
"We strongly urge Atty. Gen. (Dan) Lungren to use his power to ban the manufacture, sale and transfer to every single assault weapon on sale in California today . . . and every new variation that Colt or any other assault weapon-maker wants to put onto the streets," Roberti said at a news conference from his Van Nuys office.
A spokesman for Lungren said the attorney general is already compiling a list of additional assault rifles to add to the list of those now banned.
"We're just about there," said Dave Puglia, Lungren's press secretary. "There is no disagreement with the senator."
An official with Hartford, Conn.-based Colt's Manufacturing Co. disagreed that the Colt Sporter--which Roberti asserts is a look-alike to the banned Colt AR-15--is an assault rifle and vowed to continue to fight any ban on that firearm.
"We believe it should not be banned," said Mike Reissig, a Colt vice president. "This weapon is designed and produced for hunting and sporting use, such as target shooting."
Reissig also downplayed the role of assault weapons in criminal activity, saying less than 1% of all crimes involving guns include such weapons.
But an AR-15 type assault rifle was used to kill LAPD Officer Christy Lynne Hamilton, 45, a recent Police Academy graduate who died Tuesday after being shot once in the chest as she and other officers responded to a call of gunfire at a Northridge home.
Police said Christopher Golly, 17, used an AR-15 type, a civilian version of the military's M-16 rifle, to shoot Hamilton after shooting his father, Steven R. Golly, a Vietnam veteran and gun collector. The teen-ager, who was described by friends as a troubled drug user at odds with his father, later shot himself before police stormed the house.
In Washington, President Clinton eulogized Hamilton as a "policewoman who could have made a difference to people on her beat" and used the occasion to urge passage of anti-crime federal legislation.
"Our duty is clear, we have pending before the Congress an opportunity to pass crime legislation that is both tough and smart, that would put another 100,000 police officers on the street--a proposal of real value for the cities of California--and at the same time ban the kinds of semiautomatic weapons that are used for killing people like Christy Hamilton and which have no justification for sporting or hunting purposes," the President said.
Roberti authored the state's landmark Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, which outlawed 67 specific semiautomatic assault rifles and gave the attorney general the power to extend that ban to cover other assault weapons that were substantially the same as those already on the list.
Last week, Roberti trotted out an AK-47 assault rifle and had it fired at watermelons in a noisy demonstration to underline his contention that backers of his April 12 recall election are angry at him for authoring the weapons act.
Roberti, whose term expires this fall and is not seeking reelection, is expected to seek statewide office.
In 1991, Lungren began the process to add the Colt Sporter to the list of banned weapons, saying it was essentially the Colt AR-15 under a different name. But Colt and other manufacturers responded by filing suit challenging the constitutionality of the act, and were successful in getting a court order preventing Lungren from adding any new guns to the list until the issue was decided.
In December, a Sacramento Superior Court judge decided that the weapons act was constitutional, and last week the 3rd District Court of Appeals lifted the injunction allowing Lungren to proceed with expanding the list of banned weapons.
Puglia, Lungren's spokesman, said the attorney general--who is up for reelection this year--has always been in favor of reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.