By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
But the L.A. County Sten-gun incident was far from unique. Gun shows, with their diminished controls, remain the choice locale at which to purchase otherwise-regulated assault weapons. Undercover officers in Detroit and Chicago, sometimes claiming to be felons unable to purchase guns legally, reportedly have bought guns from a number of gun-show vendors. The New York Timesarticle alleged that there was a pattern to this abuse, with some sellers expressing personal contempt for the law that would keep guns out of the hands of lawbreakers.
By shutting down the Fairplex gun shows, the county supervisors aren’t exactly bucking a trend. While the gun lobby usually demonizes the federal bureaucracy as its prime oppressor, most of the recent government action against unlawful firearms has been state and local. Two major state anti-gun bills have already been signed into law by Governor Davis; two more are pending. Here in L.A., City Attorney Jim Hahn has been bringing legal action against the manufacturers of the cheap handguns so popular on the streets. City Councilman Mike Feuer has introduced a motion proposing a law that would establish a commission to study placing personalized security devices on most new handguns — this in addition to state-proposed childproof locks. Both Sheriff Lee Baca and LAPD Chief Bernie Parks — the two highest-profile lawmen in the western U.S. — have voiced their opposition to the availability of high-lethality weapons in the urban environment and, more recently, to the county show itself. "Los Angeles is no longer a frontier county," Baca said.
Nationally, nearly two dozen municipalities, ranging from Compton to Chicago, have sued the gun industry for various causes of action. Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago has explained that the cities turned to lawsuits "out of frustration with the federal government." (Los Angeles County is also in the process of filing such an action.)
The feds remain shackled by the Reagan-era gun owners’ act, which limited inspection of dealers, cut the penalties for faking sales records and raised the burden of proof for prosecutors. It is interesting that many local sting operations have been able to use federal firearms records against erring dealers —records of illicit transactions that the feds themselves were unable to take advantage of under current law.
The turning tide of anti-gun legislation may in part be due to a strategic blunder by the NRA: In recent years, it’s sighted its big lobbying guns on Washington, leaving its local flanks uncovered. But local government is supposed to be the most responsive government. Now it is responding to a changed public sentiment, clearly running against firearms proliferation, that itself responds to some important numbers. Like 36,000 gunshot deaths a year, another 100,000 woundings, a billion-dollar-plus cost in related medical bills to taxpayers. That’s a big cost for the public to be paying for a proliferation of deadly guns.
And the public is even more acutely aware that, with the current level of gun saturation, we — and our children and grandchildren — are constantly at hazard. In the end, this is why local governments all over the country are trying to hang up the gun.
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