Simi Valley Councilwoman Sandi Webb's admission last week that she illegally carries a pistol when she leaves the safety of her home city for Los Angeles, and will continue to do so, has drawn disbelief from fellow council members and law enforcement officials.
Webb maintained on two Los Angeles talk radio programs that she has a God-given right to protect herself.
That drew quick complaints from Simi Valley officials.
"I don't think we want to send the message out that we're a town of gunslingers," said Councilman Paul Miller, the city's former chief of police. "We all have to abide by the law, and I think it's unwise for an elected official to publicly state that they break the law."
Webb's remarks come just days after she drew national attention for praising William Masters II, a Sun Valley man who shot and killed an 18-year-old graffiti tagger and wounded a second tagger in a confrontation two weeks ago.
Masters was not prosecuted in the slaying, saying that the two men threatened him after he took down their license plate number. He could still be charged for carrying a pistol without a permit.
Webb called Masters a "crime-fighting hero" while also recommending that the police be allowed to shoot taggers with salt buckshot or paint balls to deter graffiti vandalism. Webb voiced her views in a letter to the editor and appeared on radio shows Wednesday and Friday. Now Webb and Masters have been asked to appear together on ABC's "20/20."
Because Simi Valley has one of the nation's lowest crime rates and has very few problems with graffiti, Webb's controversial comments did not make sense to Barbara Williamson, her fellow councilwoman.
"We're very fortunate to be one of the country's safest cities, and I don't think it would remain that way if everybody decided to pack a weapon," Williamson said. "We've also been able to keep the city relatively graffiti-free and we haven't had to shoot anyone doing it."
Webb's admission that she would continue to break the law by carrying a concealed weapon without a permit has also baffled some law enforcement officials.
"I don't know why anyone would admit that they illegally carry a weapon," said Richard Bryce, Ventura County undersheriff.
Bryce estimated that fewer than 500 people in Ventura County are permitted to carry a concealed weapon for special circumstances, such as carrying large sums of cash for their day-to-day business. Webb takes her weapon with her when she drives to the Los Angeles Basin.
"I don't think driving to L.A. constitutes a special circumstance," Bryce said.
Webb risks a misdemeanor violation if she is caught carrying the concealed weapon, and if she is caught a second time, she risks serving up to a year in jail.
"First of all, they would have to search me to find out if I had a weapon, and to do that they would have to have probable cause," she said. "I don't think that is going to happen."
Webb said even if she was caught she would fight any conviction in court.
"I have a right under the Constitution to bear arms," she said.
A longtime National Rifle Assn. member, Webb said she owns several weapons and keeps them for protection. She bought her first gun in the 1970s after being raped in an apartment complex in San Bernardino, she said. Despite screaming for help, no one in the crowded complex came to her aid, she said.
"That wouldn't happen here," she said. "Our community is very involved in crime-fighting. If we see something happening we don't shut our windows and doors, we take down numbers and call the police."
Masters was a hero because he tried to get involved, she said.
Webb disagreed that her remarks of the past two weeks would hurt the image of the city.
"If anything it tells the criminal, 'Don't come here cause we're not going to put up with it,' " she said.