Residents in the San Fernando Valley's 20th Senate District should not have had to bother with the gun lobby-inspired recall election Tuesday against state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys). But the requisite number of signatures had been gathered, forcing a needless move against a politician who because of term limits was scheduled to leave office in a few months anyway.
Fortunately, the voters in the 20th made the best of it. They turned out in sufficient numbers to send a stinging rebuke to the gun lobby in particular and to a poorly timed waste of taxpayer funds in general. Most of those casting ballots refused to buy the denunciations of Roberti's eminently sensible efforts--efforts joined by a few other leading Californian politicians--to ban military-style assault weapons. By a margin of 59% to 41%, citizens voted to allow him to finish his final Senate term with justly deserved dignity.
The Constitutional Rights Federation, a Valley gun owners groups, spearheaded the signature-gathering. The five challengers on the ballot, all weak, were part of the gun lobby or unabashed gun lovers or played to that crowd. Even the National Rifle Assn. got involved toward the end. None of it worked: Roberti's opponents pulled in fewer votes than the number of signatures they had gathered to force the election in the first place.
"For years, the NRA has been perceived as having the power to make or break politicians," Richard M. Aborn, president of the Washington-based Handgun Control Inc., told the Associated Press. "It's not true." Roberti had a similar reaction: "They wanted to take the credit for victory. Now, they can take credit for a great big defeat."
You could say that Roberti's opposition tried to roll out the heavy weapons on this one . . . but they turned out to just be pop guns.