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Local mid-city elected officials at the city and state level have taken the lead on gun control legislation. In recent weeks, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th District, and California State Assembly Member Mike Feuer, 42nd District, both introduced legislation aimed to better track and control private ownership of firearms.
Koretz, who had already introduced a resolution to the city council urging Los Angeles businesses to ban firearms from their premises, introduced another city resolution in support of California Assembly Bill 1934, which would make it illegal for anyone who is not a law enforcement officer to openly carry a handgun in public.
Feuer introduced Assembly Bill 1810, which would require the preservation of records of long gun (rifles and shotguns) sales and transfers. Currently, state law requires those records to be destroyed.
Koretz joined State Assembly Member Lori Saldana, 76th District, who authored AB 1934, at a press conference on April 16 to support the “open carry” ban. Currently, California law allows gun-owners to carry firearms in public places without a permit, as long as the gun remains unloaded. The issue has sparked controversy in recent months, as “open carry” advocates began carrying their weapons into Starbucks locations in California.
“The status quo is both shameful and shocking,” Koretz said. “People who are not police officers, and who may have no training or permits, can carry handguns openly, into almost any public place. That places innocent bystanders in instant danger. Are we going to be sending our Los Angeles police officers to check each time a person with a handgun is spotted walking down the street or in a park, to see if the gun is loaded with ammo? Frankly, it’s an affront to have to use our officers in a manner that’s both so frivolous and so dangerous.”
On Tuesday, AB 1934 was approved by the State Assembly’s Committee on Public Safety Committee, bringing it a step closer to becoming law, as it now moves on to the Appropriations Committee. The Public Safety Committee also passed Feuer’s long gun registration bill last week.
Suzanne Verge, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, spoke about the importance of tracking the sale of long guns.
“Right now, when someone buys a handgun, there is a dealer’s record of sale, so we can track who owns the gun,” Verge said. “But there’s a loophole in the law so that there’s no record for the sale of a long gun. By not having those gun records, if a police department is going to check out a domestic violence call, they know if someone is a handgun owner, but they don’t have any record of if the person owns a long gun, which makes it more dangerous for them. Half the weapons police find on people with restraining orders or the mentally ill are long guns.”
However, Chuck Michel, litigation counsel for the California Rifle and Pistol Association, called long gun registration unnecessary and politically-motivated.
“Long gun registration is really designed just to throw more red tape in the way so people are discouraged from participating in shooting sports. I suspect this has very little to do with long guns, per se, and more to do with trying to get as many gun laws passed as they can. This is an extreme bill that has been considered before and not pushed, and the only reason they’re trying to pass it now is because the Supreme Court is about to rule on the constitutionality of state gun bans.”
Michel also said that the City of Los Angeles, and Feuer in particular, is hostile to gun-owners’ rights.
“As a City of Los Angeles Councilman, Mike Feuer never met a gun control law he didn’t like,” Michel said. “If it was up to him, nobody would have any firearms. What we want is a fair and constitutional concealed weapon license system in place in California. But some cities, including the City of L.A., are so averse to giving law-abiding citizens the right to carry guns and defend their families, that they won’t issue conceal and carry permits even after they’ve been sued and lost.”
Both Feuer and Koretz, however, have worked to create stricter gun control laws throughout their careers in city and state government. When Feuer was a Los Angeles City Councilmember, representing the 5th District, he was one of the council’s strongest advocates for gun control, helping pass legislation that required longer wait periods before buying a gun, as well as a ban on cheap pistols known as Saturday Night Specials. In 2007, he authored a State Assembly bill that required all semi-automatic ammunition sold in California to be microstamped, technology which would make the bullets easier to track and identify.
Koretz, meanwhile, has worked to pass gun control laws as a member of the West Hollywood City Council; the California State Assembly, where he preceded Feuer representing the 42nd District; and now the Los Angeles City Council. In West Hollywood, Koretz co-authored the ban on Saturday Night Specials that was the first of its kind in the nation, and sparked many similar bans around the region, including in Los Angeles. He also worked to ban semi-automatic rifles, which lead to similar state-wide and federal bans.
Koretz said he first started working for gun control in 1974, after his friend, who worked as a pharmacist, was robbed three times in three weeks.
“By that time, my mother and father had each been robbed at gunpoint twice already,” Koretz said. “My mother because she worked as a bank teller, and my father randomly in parking lots, and I’ve been involved with gun control efforts ever since. Fortunately, no one I know has ever been harmed. I’m one of the lucky ones, most people in this movement have lost loved ones at the wrong end of a gun.”
Koretz said California has made great progress on the gun control issue in the past 35 years.
“The recent Supreme Court decision was a significant step back. The focus is always on getting the most dangerous guns out of the hands of the most dangerous people, and making it easier to track them,” Koretz said. “The Mike Feuer legislation tracking long guns was something we looked at doing when I was in the Assembly, and I think that’s a priority.”
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