By James P. Sweeney
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
April 23, 2002
SACRAMENTO – In a rare setback for the gun-control movement here, an Assembly committee on Tuesday rejected a measure that would have banned future sales of high-powered .50-caliber rifles.
Two liberal Democrats with records of support for gun laws broke ranks and voted with the only two Republicans on the Public Safety Committee to defeat the bill, 4-3.
The author, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, was given a second chance at passage, but he will need a rule waiver to keep the bill, AB 2222, alive.
Puzzled supporters attributed the defeat to election-year politics, suggesting Gov. Gray Davis may have been at work behind the scenes. Aides to the governor said he had no position on the measure.
But committee chairman Carl Washington, a Paramount Democrat and one of the opposition votes, suggested otherwise.
"It was not going to be signed by the governor," Washington said. "The governor is not in favor of moving the bill forward."
Sponsors of the legislation portrayed .50-caliber rifles as long-range sniper weapons that have become increasingly popular and easier to buy than handguns in California. They warned that the big guns could be used to target refineries, water systems and other major public facilities.
But critics said the guns are used largely for competition and sport shooting. They challenged supporters to identify a single major incident involving a .50-caliber weapon in California.
"There is no link to an existing crime problem," said Gerald Upholt of the California Rifle and Pistol Association. "It affects only sportsmen and competitive shooters."
Andres Soto, policy director of the San Francisco-based Trauma Foundation, said .50-calibers were used against federal agents in Waco, Texas, were included in Timothy McVeigh's personal arsenal and have been purchased by the Irish Republican Army at U.S. gun shows.
A .50-caliber displayed for the committee last week had been confiscated from a drug dealer by Los Angeles sheriff's deputies, Soto said.
"All we need is one incident and we'll be in the unfortunate position of having to say, 'I told you so,'" Soto said.
Assemblyman Fred Keeley, D-Boulder Creek, who cast the deciding vote against the bill, could not be reached for comment.
If this is tied to election-year politics, we need to have elections every year.
I love the " All we need is one incident"/"I told you so" theory.
Sooner or later there could very well be an "incident", but if we used this thinking with 1000's of things that are used by people in pursuit of their hobbies we'd all just as well stay inside with the doors locks and curtains drawn.
McVeigh may have had one but I don't remember him using it. I know several people that have .50 cal's that they use to punch holes in paper targets.
Also, wasn't there something about the U.S. Government selling weapons to the IRA through a back door agent.