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‘Copycat’ Gun Ban Survives Critical Vote : Firearms: Assembly panel agrees to toughen current assault weapons law by prohibiting near-replicas from being made or sold.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A bill to broaden California’s assault weapons ban survived a critical test Thursday when it passed an Assembly committee by the narrowest of margins after a flurry of last-minute lobbying.

The bill (SB 46X), by state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys), would plug loopholes in the existing ban by adding a generic description of the military-style rapid-fire weapons to the law.

Currently the law lists banished firearms by name, allowing manufacturers and sellers of the guns to legally market “copycat” weapons under different names or slightly altered designs.

National Rifle Assn. lobbyists, joined by other gun group representatives, pressed members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee to defeat the bill. They argued that it would only create headaches for law-abiding citizens who keep the high-powered weapons for sport or protection.

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But a survivor of last year’s high-rise massacre in San Francisco weighed in with an emotional plea for legislators to outlaw the type of copycat gun that left her wounded and eight others--including her husband--dead.

“In a matter of minutes, I had been shot and my husband had been killed,” said attorney Michelle Scully, noting that if an effective ban is in place, “hopefully . . . (assailants) won’t be able to kill as many people at one time as this gentleman was able to do.”

The gun that disgruntled Woodland Hills mortgage broker Gian Luigi Ferri toted into Scully’s legal offices July 1, 1993, was a TEC DC9, a near-replica of the TEC 9, banned in California since 1989.

In urging passage of his bill, Roberti--who fought off a recall attempt by gun groups in April--cited the San Francisco case and the shooting death earlier this year of Los Angeles Police Officer Christy Hamilton as “two of the most flagrant examples” in which killers used copycat assault weapons.

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After both sides made their cases, several legislators withheld their votes while they were being courted by the bill’s supporters and opponents.

Roberti’s camp focused on wooing Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress), with Scully slipping her a personal note to ask for a yes vote on the measure.

“I just told her the language in this bill was just a way to clean up and tighten what we already have,” Scully said afterward. “And that it would go a long way toward saving lives and toward saving other people the grief and sorrow that I’ve been going through the last year.”

In a dramatic break with her self-described “100% 2nd Amendment vote,” Allen split with fellow Republicans on the committee and provided the swing vote needed to send the bill to the Assembly floor. The bill passed 12 to 9.

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Allen said she was less swayed by Scully’s appeal than by a falling out she had with firearms rights groups over one of her own bills. She said gun lobbyists tried to sabotage her bill to ensure a 1,000-foot “gun-free zone” around schools.

“I was treated in a poor manner by these people whose position I’ve always supported,” Allen said. “Intimidation and bullying does not make it with me.”

The full Assembly will take up the bill, which has already passed the Senate, next week.


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