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LA Residents Arm Themselves Because ‘Police Can’t Protect You’ With LA Riot Bjt

May 14, 1992 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Shocked and scared by the slow police response to last month’s riots, thousands of residents are buying guns and learning how to use them.

Some gun stores and shooting ranges are running advertisements that play on people’s fears.

″The government won’t protect you. The police can’t protect you. It’s your life. Your family. Your responsibility. Next time, be prepared 3/8″ say ads placed by Gun World & The Target Range Inc.

″It’s a damn sad development,″ said security consultant Gavin DeBecker, whose clients include Cher and Michael J. Fox. ″What are they going to do? Hold suspects at bay for three hours until the cops come? Guns don’t change attitudes, they only destroy tissue.″

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Three days of violence erupted April 29 after four white police officers were acquitted in the beating of black motorist Rodney King. More than 50 people died.

One of the riot’s starkest images was of blacks pummeling a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, after police had retreated from the area. The attack was captured on videotape, like the King beating.

″If that guy in the truck had been carrying a weapon it may not have happened, said Harold Tedrick, 31, of Harbor City. He bought a pistol, his first gun.

Police say officers were ordered from that area for their own safety, and Chief Daryl Gates conceded it was a mistake not to try to retake the intersection right away.

A special commission is investigating the police response, but residents don’t seem inclined to wait for a report.

″Many people have told me they are carrying a gun, that they are not going to be a Reginald Denny,″ said Sgt. Dennis Zine, a 24-year Police Department veteran.

″People are afraid and I can understand why they are afraid. They ask, ’Who’s going to protect me?‴

The arms race is apparent in many ways.

The state Justice Department keeps score by the number of guns purchased in California - 23,064 during the eight-day period immediately after the rioting, compared with 18,263 during the same eight days in 1991.

The National Rifle Association hears it through the telephone - 1,000 calls a day since the rioting, 33 percent more than normal.

Lee Frankle, a range officer at the Beverly Hills Gun Club, sees it in the club’s 17 firing lanes, jammed since the rioting with ″women, men, families and children, long as they’re 4 1/2 feet tall.″

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During the riots, several store owners patrolled their property and drove off looters at gunpoint.

″We went through hell, no police, no National Guard. We called for help and they said we were on our own,″ said one merchant, Richard Rhee.

NRA spokesman James Baker said many residents had heard that message from the police and decided to act on it.

″That’s what we believe the Second Amendment is all about - you ought to have a right to defend yourself,″ he said.

Gun-control advocates decried the proliferation of weapons.

″There was a general loss of sanity. People were scared. Inject guns into that? That’s exactly the situation you don’t want people to have deadly force,″ said Luis Tolley of Handgun Control Inc.

State Attorney General Dan Lungren acknowledged the fear that drives people to seek guns but urged them to resist.

″In this society, we have a type of social contract in which we give up our instinctive desire to avenge and the state protects,″ he said. ″When you see a breakdown, that the compact is broken, they get desperate.″