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Guns Are Rarely the Answer : Fresno council vote and state probe in Van Nuys are steps for public safety

Although several candidates who were shrilly opposed to gun restrictions won key races last November, we’re happy to report that more than a few local and state officials remain vigilant in their efforts to limit the proliferation of firearms.

The Fresno City Council on Tuesday wisely defeated an ordinance that would have led to almost unrestricted issuing of concealed-weapon permits and to surely thousands more guns being carried in public places.

The police chief and virtually every civic organization rejected the argument of the proposal’s supporters--that it would reduce street crime. However, the vote was uncomfortably close, 4 to 3, and the issue may come up again.

A safer future lies in restricting rather than expanding the circulation of firearms. That’s why an 80-year-old state law that permits humane society officers to carry guns, unsupervised by any government agency, should be changed at once.

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State authorities announced last week that they would investigate the activities and finances of an animal welfare group suspected of using charitable donations to legally purchase as much as $100,000 in weapons, including assault-style pistols just before federal legislation restricted their sale. The state action was prompted by a Times report that federal agents had confiscated some of the weapons last year.

The Van Nuys-based Mercy Crusade has long been active in animal welfare, sheltering abused animals and promoting spaying and neutering. But in conducting these worthwhile activities, many Mercy Crusade members were apparently armed to the teeth. Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms seized 12 assault-style pistols from the group’s leader, James McCourt. According to federal authorities, McCourt had bought or ordered at least 34 weapons during the last year alone.

Since even many police departments do not use these assault-style weapons because of their potential for mass destruction, we doubt that animal welfare volunteers need them. Our skepticism extends to McCourt’s explanations for having the guns: to gain respect from other law enforcement agencies, foster camaraderie among the officers and provide protection. Respect given only because a person has a gun is no respect at all.


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