STUDY: L.A. FELONS CAN BUY BULLETS 10 AREA GUN SHOPS SELL AMMUNITION -- LEGALLY.
Convicted felons were able to purchase ammunition at 10 gun shops in Los Angeles, including seven in the San Fernando Valley, a study released Thursday found.
The Rand Corp. study said that, in April and May 2004, 10,050 bullets were bought by 52 people with felonies or other convictions prohibiting them from purchasing guns. A total of 2,031 people purchased 436,956 bullets during that time period, researchers said.
``This is the first evidence that says it's quite easy for a felon to walk into a gun shop and buy ammunition,'' said Greg Ridgeway, associate director for safety and justice for Rand. ``Our goal is to get this information out so that policymakers and the public can debate on what is the right thing to do.''
Currently, felons may legally purchase ammunition in the state of California, but they are prohibited from buying guns.
Federal law requires anyone who purchases a firearm to pass a background check. An L.A. ordinance passed in 2001 requires dealers that sell ammunition to obtain identification and a thumbprint from customers.
``So much of the focus has been on the guns themselves, and very little discussion on the ammunition,'' Ridgeway said. ``This is information that wasn't out there before. There might be a perception in the public that the government may already be monitoring this.''
A 2005 bill introduced in the California Legislature that would have required ammunition dealers to log all sales in a state database failed.
Assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas, D-Los Angeles, who approved the Los Angeles ordinance when he was a member of the City Council, said expanding it to the state level would be more effective but has been frustrating.
``You have to have more than just a local ordinance, but gun control advocates are so fierce,'' Ridley-Thomas said. ``Our point is, we are not interested in law-abiding citizens who carry weapons, but after the law-breaking (citizens) who carry weapons.''
``The issue of firearms in general is a controversial area,'' agreed Nathan Barankin, spokesman for state Attorney General Bill Lockyer. ``Then, when you talk about ammunition for those firearms, that level of controversy is like times two.''
Statewide, Barankin said, there is a deep distinction between the sale of firearms and ammunition. A convicted felon is not allowed to buy a firearm but can buy bullets.
Few ammunition dealers in the Valley wanted to comment on the issue, but those in the firearms business called the city ordinance useless because it does little to deter crime.
``It's a ridiculous, ridiculously stupid ordinance,'' said gun manufacturer Brian Delmastro, owner of San Fernando-based Surefire. Delmastro sells ammunition exclusively to law-enforcement agencies.
``The people who are enacting the laws don't know anything about the gun business,'' he said. ``The criminals are going to steal the ammunition, or most of them, if they really want to do the job, will reload their own ammo. Why would anyone want to go into a shop when they can just go out of town? You can go on the Internet and really load up.''
The Los Angeles Police Department, which assisted in gathering data for the Rand study funded by the National Institute of Justice, monitors the logs shopowners keep and has made arrests based on information provided. Retailers are required to keep that information for one year.
LAPD officials said they will evaluate the study's conclusions, though the findings are two years old and might not provide an accurate account of the current situation.
``The department has a gun detail that monitors retail stores that sell ammunition within the city,'' the LAPD said in a statement. ``We work closely with personnel with the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agency on all gun investigations. We will continue in educating owners of retail shops in the regulation in the sale of ammunition to the general public.''
Meanwhile, anti-violence groups praised city officials for enacting the ordinance, saying Los Angeles is at the forefront of progressive gun laws.
``There's a real void in state law, so what has happened is local governments are taking a stand,'' said Juliet Leftwich, lead counsel for Legal Community Against Violence. ``The idea is (the L.A. ordinance) is somewhat of a deterrent because if I'm a felon, I wouldn't want to leave my fingerprint somewhere.''
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 6, 2006|
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