LA city council approves package of gun laws

The Los Angeles City Council has approved a package of laws intended to reduce the availability of illegal firearms. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports that gun violence is down across the city, but it persists in some neighborhoods.

Frank Stoltze: In the back of the mayor's press room with its high ceilings and dark wood paneling, a woman pulled out a banner that says "Women Against Gun Violence." Nadine Leblanc recalled what brought her here – the death of her 19-year-old grandson seven years ago.

Nadine LeBlanc: He wasn't wearing the traditional gang clothes that you worry about – red or blue. He was wearing tan. He had no tattoos. He was just riding in a car, waiting at a stoplight. And somebody shot him.

Stoltze: It was 3:30 on a summer afternoon in the mid-city area. She said Christopher Michael LeBlanc was getting ready to go to college. He'd wanted to be an actor.

LeBlanc: As it is, his murder has been unsolved. There's just no evidence, other than the bullet casings.

Stoltze: LeBlanc showed up to support the passage of six new city ordinances. One allows landlords to evict tenants who illegally posses firearms within 1,000 feet of their property.

Another requires gun dealers to conduct inventories and report them to the LAPD. A third requires ammunition vendors to obtain city licenses so homicide investigators can better track down bullets in murder cases. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

Antonio Villaraigosa: All together, this package will move us closer to getting dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals. It will help silence the echoes of gunfire in our communities. It will deliver a serious blow to our city's worst offenders.

Stoltze: LAPD Chief Bill Bratton was more measured in predicting the effects of the new laws. One measure bans the sale of .50 caliber bullets.

Bill Bratton: That's a good thing. But you can go right across the border into neighboring states and buy that ammunition. You can probably buy it over the Internet.

Stoltze: Bratton said Internet gun and ammunition sales are a growing problem, along with straw buyers who purchase guns in one state and sell them to criminals in another. He said that comprehensive federal legislation is the answer, and that L.A.'s new ordinances should help guide lawmakers.

Bratton: These are first steps that hopefully the new administration in Washington will want to emulate in national laws.

Stoltze: Bratton also said he hoped the new president and Congress would re-authorize the federal assault weapons ban. The National Rifle Association would likely fight such a move, and its leaders have suggested it might challenge L.A.'s new laws.

A representative said the measure that requires gun dealers to provide inventories to the LAPD is unreasonably burdensome and violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Councilman Jack Weiss said the city's eager to refute those arguments.

Jack Weiss: I think the message from everyone up here today to the NRA is pretty simple: make our day. We will fight you in court.

Stoltze: Los Angeles remains one of the nation's gun violence capitals. More than 1,500 people were shot last year, many in gang activity. Guns were the weapons in 80 percent of the city's homicides. Nadine LeBlanc said she's too familiar with the pain those shootings inflict.

LeBlanc: He was my only grandchild. I raised him since he was two pounds and nine ounces. I'm not going to allow his death to be in vain.

Stoltze: LeBlanc held back tears, and vowed to continue fighting for tougher gun laws