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Handgun Foes Take Their Case to Costa Mesa

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They ran the gamut from little girls’ dress shoes to dirty, beat-up sneakers. But the 300 empty pairs of shoes that sat in a semicircle outside Bryco Arms in Costa Mesa on Saturday all symbolized lives lost to handgun violence.

About 200 people joined the third annual Silent March to Bryco, a leading manufacturer of the inexpensive handguns known as Saturday night specials. The march was organized by Charles and Mary Blek of Mission Viejo, whose son Matthew was killed by three teenagers on a New York City street at age 21.

“A gun that was made in our son’s backyard made its way clear across the country and found itself in the hands of a 15-year-old, who put it to my son’s head,” Charles Blek told the crowd. “We’re not quarreling with self-protection. But we need to establish safety standards for handguns that are manufactured in California.”

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Saturday’s event also attracted several gun-rights advocates, some of whom stood on ladders and held signs that read, “Don’t Fear Rape! Get a .38,” and, “It is immoral to prevent the poor from defending themselves.”

Earlier this month, more than 5,000 pairs of shoes were displayed outside Smith & Wesson Corp., in Springfield, Mass.

The events were sponsored by the national Silent March organization, in conjunction with local groups such as the Orange County Citizens for the Prevention of Gun Violence, which the Bleks founded in 1995.

Bleks’ group advocates safety standards such as childproof trigger locks, permanent identifying markings and the end of designs that might encourage criminal use such as fingerprint-resistant finishes, Blek said.

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Chuck Michel, attorney for the California Firearm Manufacturers’ Alliance, of which Bryco Arms is a member, said the company will make safety locks available in the near future.

“There’s a lot of misinformation going around,” Michel said. “I’m a former prosecutor, and I understand the tragedy of these crimes. But the approach that these groups take is misleading and counterproductive.”

But state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), said, “It’s time for Gov. Wilson to look the NRA in the eye and tell them they’re wrong,” to cheers from the crowd.

Susan Shaw, a member of Women Against Gun Violence, came from Los Angeles to show her support.

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“It’s important to make the public aware about gun violence and say we won’t tolerate it any longer,” she said.


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