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Handgun ban considered in West Hollywood Los Angeles-area city, NRA set for battle over Saturday night specials


WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- A growing effort by Los Angeles-area cities to take the lead on gun control legislation will move ahead next week, when the West Hollywood City Council considers a law that would ban the sale of Saturday night specials.

The restrictions on the cheap, small handguns would be the first of their kind in California and -- if they can survive expected legal challenges -- they could pave the way for similar proposals in other cities, including Los Angeles.

Despairing at the state Legislature's reluctance to pass gun-control laws, several Los Angeles County cities in the past year have been moving incrementally in an effort to control gun violence.

Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and other cities followed Pasadena's lead in requiring ammunition buyers to fill out registration forms, while Los Angeles and West Hollywood led moves to crack down federally licensed gun dealers who fail to adhere to local zoning and licensing laws.

The city's legal advisers say they believe the question of local controls is an "open question of law"; its political leaders say they are willing to take on a court fight if necessary to advance gun controls.

"It makes no sense to have these guns out in public," said West Hollywood Councilman Paul Koretz, a sponsor of the law. "For the protection of our public safety and with the hope that this moves beyond West Hollywood to other cities, we think this is a very important step."

As soon as they learned yesterday of the proposed ban, gun advocates began slamming it.

"Their proposal is fatuous, vacuous and illegal," said Steve Helsley , state liaison for the National Rifle Association.

"The city of West Hollywood does not have the legal authority to do what they are doing."

Mr. Helsley predicted that the city will run up huge legal bills when the "silly" proposal is challenged in court.

The NRA played a key role earlier this year in persuading a state Senate committee to reject a ban on cheap, small-caliber handguns.

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