Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California Town Steps into Gun Control Cross-Fire VOTE TO BAN 'JUNK GUNS'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

California Town Steps into Gun Control Cross-Fire VOTE TO BAN 'JUNK GUNS'

Article excerpt

As chief of the Livermore police department, Ron Scott would rather spend his time snaring criminals than arguing with angry neighbors.

But by supporting an upcoming city ballot measure that would ban the sale of "junk guns," Chief Scott has found himself in the center of a political maelstrom.

"The issue has drawn a lot of interest, and has a lot of people talking," Scott says, with a large dose of understatement. Livermore's June 3 vote on "junk guns" - cheaply made handguns such as Saturday night specials - marks the first time a US city has taken the issue before the public for approval. The ballot is just one salvo in a flurry of shots being fired in the gun-control debate across the US. California - with both statewide and local efforts to ban junk guns - is at the forefront of the battle. In the California State Assembly, a package of proposals governing the manufacture and purchase of weapons is being proposed, including one bill that would ban junk guns throughout the state. Already, 33 California counties and cities - including Livermore - have outlawed the sale of junk guns. (Livermore's upcoming vote will be the first to put the issue before the whole populace, not just the town council.) Unlike many states, California allows its local governments to pass ordinances on weapons sales. The move against junk guns began in West Hollywood, where city officials passed a ban in February 1996. Last November a trial court upheld the law, but the case is being appealed. Local ordinances outlawing junk guns vary, but most ban certain small- and medium-caliber handguns that are relatively inexpensive, making them attractive to criminals. Gun-control activists argue the guns are poorly constructed and dangerous, and they point to the large number of crimes involving such guns. But gun advocates say banning them will do nothing to deter crime, and they say the "public safety" argument is just a way for antigun forces to take away Americans' right to bear arms. …

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