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Mayoral candidates call for renewal of federal assault weapons ban

Gun control took center stage at a debate of L.A. mayoral candidates in the wake of the elementary school massacre in Connecticut that left 27 dead.

All four candidates for Los Angeles mayor called for the renewal of the expired federal assault weapons ban.

Saturday night's mayoral debate, hosted by KABC-7, opened with a moment of silence for the victims of the Friday shooting before the moderator asked each candidate what they would do to reduce gun violence. 

City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, City Controller Wendy Greuel and talk radio host Kevin James each said the federal assault weapons ban, which was allowed to expire in 2004, should be renewed. 

"As Americans, and as a father, all of our hearts ache today for Newtown," said Garcetti, who called for an immediate dialogue about gun control. Rejecting arguments that a national conversation about gun violence must wait until after people have recovered from the tragedy, Garcetti said now is "precisely" the time for that conversation. 

"It's time to take this conversation national," he said. 

Greuel said the first thing she wanted to do after hearing the news was hug her son, who is in fourth grade. She called for a recommitment to renewing the assault weapons ban, and recalled a family member who was killed during a home invasion.

"It's not as easy to get mental health service as it is guns," she said. "We need to change that."

Perry called renewal of the assault weapons ban the first step toward curbing gun violence.

"I've represented South L.A. for the last 11 years, and I know far too well the effect gun violence can have on a family and on a city," Perry said.

She stressed the need to explain to people that gun violence isn't just a problem in urban and poor areas.

"If there is a lesson we can learn from what happened in Connecticut, it's that if one person gets hurt, we all get hurt."

James, who is running as a City Hall outsider and is the sole Republican in the race, agreed that the assault weapons ban must be renewed, but also took his opponents to task for their failure to curb gun violence in L.A. during their time in office. 

He vowed to work to improve school safety and improve the keeping of mental health records. 

"My opponents have failed on these issues," James said, before promising to curb the ability of those with mental health problems to get guns. "I will appoint a police chief that must support and implement the use of psychological testing for conceal and carry permits."

ALSO:

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Gun control, school security in focus after Connecticut shooting

-- Wesley Lowery 

Follow Wesley Lowery on Twitter and Google+.

 
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