Mayor again talks of ‘guns on the street’

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 17

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner may be preparing to reintroduce legislation that would give Toledo the state’s toughest gun-control laws.

The mayor met yesterday afternoon with local black clergymen and members of the Coalition Against Gun Violence to discuss strategies in their efforts to limit the number of guns on the street.

“We wanted to see how they felt about gun legislation,” said Toby Hoover, the coalition’s director. “They were all very interested.”

The renewed discussions come 11 months after Mr. Finkbeiner submitted a package of tough gun-control laws to council. The measures would have:

* Punished Toledoans who allow children access to guns without adult supervision.

* Required gun owners to register their weapons with Toledo police, paying a $5-a-gun fee.

* Banned the possession or purchase of “Saturday night specials,” a type of small, cheaply made handgun. Officials said the guns are prone to accidents because of their cheap construction, sometimes exploding when fired.

* Banned the possession, purchase, or display of certain semiautomatic weapons.

Violating any of the provisions would have been a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

When the measures were first proposed, council President Gene Cook predicted council would support the mayor’s plan quickly. But facing hundreds of angry gun owners at a Jan. 22 council meeting, council voted 11-0 to send the proposals back to the mayor’s office for revisions. The proposals were not acted upon again.

Mrs. Hoover said the proposals submitted to council in January were discussed at yesterday’s 1 1/2-hour meeting, and leaders are still “very interested” in all of them.

More meetings with community leaders are likely before any legislation is drafted, Mrs. Hoover said. But she said it may be easier to pass gun-control laws now that election-year politics are behind the mayor and council.

“Usually, gun laws are not quite as threatening to elected officials [in an off-year],” she said.

But even in the new year, council and the mayor can expect resistance, a Washington spokesman for the National Rifle Association said.

“People don’t want those kinds of laws,” said Patricia Hylton, whose group has about 2,700 members in the Toledo area. “The focus needs to be on the criminals, not the law-abiding citizens.”

According to the owner of a local gun shop, a new proposal would likely do nothing to stop criminals.

“If it’s anything like the last proposal, there will be stringent controls on legitimate gun owners and nothing to penalize people who do violate the laws,” said Ned Plummer, owner of the Trilby Sport Shop on Secor Road.

City law already makes it hard to buy a gun legitimately, he said. Someone who sees a handgun he wants at his store must go to the city’s office of gun control downtown and apply for an identification card. It takes three to five weeks for the paperwork and a city background check to be done.

After the card is mailed to the prospective buyer, he can go to the gun shop, where he must undergo another background check to satisfy the Brady Bill. Four or five days later, according to Mr. Plummer, he can take home the gun.

Prospective gun owners already go outside the city for most of their business, he said. After three gun shops closed earlier this year, his is the only legitimate gun shop left in Toledo, he said.

“They go to the gun shows, or they go out of town,” he said. “At the gun shows, they don’t have to do the [background check], and they don’t have to pay taxes.”