Villariagosa Wants to Use Gun Restrictions, Data Bases, To Take On Gangs

Friday, May 30, 2008
Andrew Blankstein and David Zahniser
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday unveiled plans to target gangs and guns -- including confiscating cars used in gang-related crimes -- with a series of new city ordinances.

The mayor proposed giving landlords the power to evict tenants convicted of using and possessing illegal weapons and ammunition. And he promised to push other new laws to regulate the purchase of ammunition and storage of weapons.

The proposed ordinances include banning .50-caliber, military-style ammunition; licensing ammunition vendors; requiring gun-store owners to make regular gun inventories and report to local law enforcement; and outlawing installation of secret gun compartments in vehicles.

"We're upping the ante," Villaraigosa said.

Chuck Michel, an attorney who represents the National Rifle Assn. and California Rifle Assn., called the mayor's proposals "a rehash."

"The bottom line is that the majority of these proposals have either been tried and failed elsewhere because they don't focus on the criminal or they are covered by proposed bills still being vetted by the Legislature," he said.

Michel added that a recent ruling drastically limits individual cities from regulating guns and ammunition.

Villaraigosa called for federal legislation that would include micro-stamping every bullet produced in the United States. Working with Councilman Jack Weiss, the mayor also proposed a measure to require that sales of ammunition in Los Angeles occur face to face, not over the Internet.

So far this year 670 people have been victims of guns crimes, and 70% of all shootings were gang-related, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

Because landlords might fear retaliation from gang members, the city's legal team will work to force suspects who illegally possess weapons and ammunition out of their homes, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said.

"We're going to step into the shoes of the landlord and do the eviction on their behalf," he said.

Still, one attorney with the ACLU of Southern California warned that some of the proposals, particularly the move to seize vehicles used in gang crimes, could harm innocent relatives of gang members.

"Taking away the family car or putting the family out on the street because one kid has gotten involved in gangs doesn't help the family in the long run," said ACLU staff attorney Peter Bibring.

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