LOS ANGELES — OUR nation is confronted by an intolerable and growing threat to the most cherished right of our people - the right to life. That threat is posed by the proliferation of military assault weapons in the hands of criminals and crazies. On Jan. 17, Patrick Edward Purdy walked onto the crowded grounds of Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, Calif., armed with an AK-47 military assault rifle and plenty of ammunition. He then sprayed the crowd of students with gunfire, leaving five innocent children dead and 29 others injured.
My police department has already lost two officers who were killed by assault weapons. Detective Thomas Williams was murdered in a drive-by ambush shooting by Daniel Jenkins on Oct. 21, 1985. Jenkins, a hardened criminal, was armed with a MAC-10. Officer Daniel Pratt was killed in a drive-by shooting on Sept. 3, 1988. The killer used an AR-15. Kirkton Moore, a violent gang member, is awaiting trial for the murder of Officer Pratt. I do not want any more officers to be spray-gunned to death by street punks armed with high-tech killing machines.
I believe such weapons can be, and should be, legislated out of the hands of killers. The most formidable resistance to such legislation has come from those who hold reverent the right to bear arms. Those well-meaning people have in the past rallied in opposition to any proposed legislation that even hinted at gun control. I would say to those people that I, too, believe in the right to bear arms. I am not a gun-control advocate, and I do not believe in general gun control. But recent events have convinced me that we all should stop thinking in terms of ``gun control'' and start doing something about ``gun responsibility'' and a reasonable right to bear arms.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution reads, ``A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.'' We should pay close attention to the words ``well-regulated.'' The Second Amendment gives no more absolute right to bear arms than the First Amendment gives anybody the right to yell ``Fire!'' in a crowded theater.
A reasonable right to bear arms does not mandate that weapons designed and built for the express purpose of killing human beings on battlefields be made available to the general public. In fact, the general public is already prohibited by the National Firearms Act from owning most weapons built for that purpose. Also, the National Firearms Act strictly regulates access to other weapons, such as machine guns. Yet, through an error in judgment, we have allowed assault rifles to flow unrestricted across the counters of our gun shops and into the hands of too many criminals. It is time to correct that error. Doing so will not be a ``foot in the door'' for gun-control advocates. It will be a courageous and responsible move....
The following additional points should be included in any new federal legislation:
1.The sale and manufacture of firearm magazines capable of holding 20 or more rounds of ammunition should be banned. This ban is necessary to ensure that exempted rifles and pistols aren't outfitted with the same deadly capacity as their outlawed cousins.
2.Importing assault weapons should be prohibited. This is a logical step consistent with our own proposed restrictions on the weapons.
3.Military assault weapons could be regulated by amending the National Firearms Act.
I urge the Congress to act on this issue - now!
AK-47s, like the one Patrick Purdy used in Stockton, MAC-10s, like the one used to kill Detective Williams, and AR-15s, like the one used to kill Officer Pratt, are examples of military assault rifles that can be purchased right off the shelf in less than the time it takes to buy a pair of shoes. That ought to be a crime. I urge you to make it just that - A CRIME.