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Thursday, August 19, 1999 Published at 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK

World: Americas

Police chief backs gun control

LAPD Chief Parks: Call to take guns off the street

The head of the Los Angeles Police Department, Bernard Parks, has called for tougher gun control laws and attacked the country's powerful gun lobby.

America and the Gun
  • A civil liberties issue?
  • Recent legislation
  • What is the NRA?
  • Heston defends laws
  • The LAPD chief, who has joined a high-profile campaign to restrict the sale of firearms, called for "total gun control", saying groups like the National Rifle Association were promoting violence.

    Mr Parks was addressing a news conference called to release 911 emergency tapes of the recent shooting at a Jewish community day-care centre.

    Anti-gun campaign

    The police chief said such incidents highlighted the need to push forward new laws to destroy and ban assault weapons and "Saturday Night Special" handguns.

    [ image: Three children and two adults were wounded during the shooting]
    Three children and two adults were wounded during the shooting
    "Do we want to see another incident or do we want to bite the bullet and get these guns off the street?" he asked.

    "You have to take the step. I don't think we can continue to play with the issue."

    Mr Parks said groups such as the National Rifle Association were hiding behind constitutional arguments.

    Right wing rage

    The police chief's comments attracted sharp criticism from supporters of the gun lobby.

    [ image:  ]
    NRA president Charlton Heston described Mr Parks as "one of the finest police chiefs in LA history" but said his comments were inappropriate.

    "He's surely entitled to his opinions on assault weapons and handguns, though he is inadequately informed on their place in the Bill of Rights," he said.

    Mr Parks is among a growing body of influential voices calling for changes in America's gun laws.

    US Attorney-General Janet Reno has said the country should "seriously consider" tougher gun legislation.

    Vice-president Al Gore said it was children and families who needed more protection - not gun manufacturers.

    And President Clinton has said he wants guns to be registered like cars.

    Telephone terror

    [ image: Buford Furrow eventually surrendered to the police]
    Buford Furrow eventually surrendered to the police
    The tapes of 911 emergency callers during the 10 August shooting at the North Valley Jewish Community Centre revealed the panic that gripped people when a gunman went on a shooting rampage.

    "Please hurry. He's got a huge machine gun," cried one woman, among the first callers to the emergency services.

    Another woman shouted: "There's been a shooting here. He shot the whole damn place!...Oh my God,!"

    The gunman, Buford Furrow Jr., a white supremacist, eventually surrendered to the police.

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