Congress needs to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons. That was the message that came out of a .
Assembly member Mike Feuer called the panel in response to recent gun violence in Colorado and Wisconsin. About 150 people attended the panel held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
"No matter how you feel about the Second Amendment, no one likes gun violence," said Feuer who represents the 42nd Assembly district, including Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Brentwood, Sherman Oaks, Studio City and North Hollywood.
Feuer announced that he has introduced a resolution in Sacramento calling on Congress and the president to reauthorize the federal assault weapons ban which lapsed in 2004.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca reported that since that ban lapsed, a large influx of assault weapons, primarily from Russia and China, have come into the U.S. for consumer purchase.
"Do we really need military weapons to protect ourselves in this country?" asked Baca.
"[The United States] is no place for weapons designed as weapons of war," said Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michel Moore.
"What law-abiding citizen needs assault weapons?" asked Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Kortez, who represents the 5th District.
State has tough gun laws
California’s rate of gun-related deaths is lower than in other states, both in terms of homicides and suicides, Feuer said. He credited the city’s and the state’s strict gun laws, calling them the "toughest in the nation."
Moore gave the state of California, the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County a grade of "A" for its gun control laws. Moore also gave the United States a grade of "F," citing the federal assault weapons ban not being renewed as a primary reason.
Koretz said the Second Amendment may guarantee the right to bear arms but it doesn’t prevent government from placing restrictions on guns.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge agreed, saying people would eventually come to accept restrictions on guns. He pointed out that people were initially resistant to smoking bans and drunken driving laws, but they been proven to work.
Guns vs. People
The age-old question of whether guns or people are the problem was raised.
"People kill people with guns," Moore said, adding that you can also kill with an axe handle but can’t walk into a movie theater and kill many people with that axe handle.
Baca, a former member of the National Rifle Association, said be believes most Americans are afraid of guns but feel that they need a gun to be safe and to protect their home.
Koretz said that when he served on the West Hollywood City Council, the city passed one of the nation’s first bans on assault weapons, one that eventually led to the state banning assault weapons. Later, West Hollywood passed one of the nation’s first bans on guns known as "Saturday Night Specials."
Koretz noted that the NRA routinely opposes any type of gun control law, even one as seemingly benign as registering bullets to the people who buy them. He said the nation needs a strong gun-control organization to counter the NRA.
An audience member said the guns were not the problem, that stronger background checks are needed before a person can buy guns or ammunition. That remark brought strong applause from the audience as well as a few boos.
Koretz responded that background checks do not prevent access to guns. Baca said background checks can only go so far because they merely provide a snapshot of an individual at a particular time.
Baca questioned the need to buy large amounts of ammunition at one time, calling for restrictions on how much ammunition a person should be able to buy in a week or a month’s time.
Baca also questioned the need for people to own 30, 40, 50 or more weapons, pointing out that a person would have to hire people to shoot all those weapons at the same time.
When the panel ended, Feuer said he was confident the discussion would continue. Feuer's staff called the panel a success.
Termed out of the Assembly at the end of this year, Feuer is running for Los Angeles City Attorney in 2013. Both Koretz and LaBonge have endorsed him.
What do you think of about banning assault weapons? Tell us in the comments below.