Less than a month after a gunman opened fire at a San Fernando Valley Jewish community center, Gov. Gray Davis on Friday signed a trio of bills that he said help make up “the toughest gun control package of legislation in America.”
Flanked by police, emergency room workers and parents who have lost their children to guns, Davis signed bills that, effective Jan. 1, will ban the production and sale in California of unsafe handguns, require the sale of trigger locks with all guns and place tighter controls on gun shows where weapons are sold.
“This weapon right here--or weapons like it--are the biggest killer of children in California,” Davis said, waving a so-called Saturday night special.
“These are junk guns, and when I sign this bill they will go to the junkyard,” Davis said, drawing loud applause from more than 100 people at a bill-signing ceremony outside Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, where some of the victims of the community center shootings had been taken.
The bill, written by state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), will ban the production of weapons that cannot pass firing tests and “drop tests” in which the guns must be able to withstand being dropped several times without discharging.
Charles Blek said he had been waiting for this day since his 21-year-old son was gunned down in 1994 in New York City by a 15-year-old with a Saturday night special.
“This is bittersweet. It will save other people,” Blek said. “Folks talk about closure and healing, but that just doesn’t happen. This was a life sentence for our family, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”
A second bill signed by the governor was co-written by Assembly members Jack Scott (D-Altadena) and Dion Aroner (D-Berkeley) and state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles). The bill requires that trigger locks be provided with all weapons sold in California. Scott’s adult son was killed in a gun accident in which he believes a trigger lock would have made a difference.
Davis said the lock “costs $11. It is easy to apply, and will save young children’s lives. Believe me, it is a lot easier to childproof a weapon than to bulletproof a child.”
The third bill, by Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), requires the certification of gun show promoters, prohibits minors from attending gun shows unless accompanied by an adult and requires additional background information on those who sell guns.
Steve Helsley, the California liaison for the National Rifle Assn., predicted that the trigger lock and unsafe gun bills would have little positive impact and might even backfire.
He said trigger locks often don’t work and are no substitute for education.
“Just because you put the Club on the steering wheel of your car doesn’t mean you don’t have to teach your 16-year-old how to drive,” Helsley said.
He said Polanco’s bill would add to the thriving black market. Any handguns that did not pass safety tests would simply be sold there, he said.
He called the two laws “highly symbolic,” adding, “We don’t think they provide any additional safety.”
Ruett Foster, who lost his son Evan, 7, to a gangster’s stray bullet two years ago, said the laws were a good start but need to go much further before kids are safe.
“People are so concerned about their rights,” he said. “They need to focus on doing what’s right.”
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Trigger Locks Required
Gov. Gray Davis on Friday signed a bill requiring that trigger locks be included with all firearms sold in California as of Jan. 1.