State to outlaw assault arms

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WITH EMOTIONS still high over April's school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, the state of California is introducing some of the toughest gun control legislation in the United States to outlaw almost all categories of assault weapons.

The state legislature approved a Bill on Monday making it illegal to buy or sell a gun with characteristics of semi-automatic weapons, such as accessories making such guns easier to conceal and use, or detachable parts, folding stocks and vertical hand-grips or magazines with more than 10 rounds.

The Bill is expected to be signed into law by California's Democratic Governor, Gray Davis, next Monday in a ceremony at a high-rise office block in downtown San Francisco where a gunman, Gian Luigi Ferri, killed eight people and injured six others in 1993 before shooting himself.

"The time is now to ban assault weapons," the state assembly speaker, Antonio Villaraigosa, said before the vote. "It is time to use the power of the legislature to say with one loud voice that we should all move beyond Columbine." April's shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, which left 14 students and a teacher dead, have prompted calls for tougher gun control across the country.

The Republican majority in Congress, heavily lobbied by the National Rifle Association, paralysed efforts to introduce tougher federal measures. But in California, Democrats now control both legislative houses and the governorship. In 1989, after a school shooting, the state banned assault weapons by make rather than category.

That allowed manufacturers to modify their designs slightly and keep selling.