By Ramona Giwargis | San Jose Mercury News | Link to Article
SAN JOSE — In a state already known for some of the nation’s strictest gun controls, some San Jose officials are pushing the city to go further with a proposed law that would toughen requirements for securing firearms, reporting their theft and monitoring ammunition sales.
If approved by the City Council, the law would put San Jose among Sunnyvale, Oakland and San Francisco as cities that have adopted local gun control laws and drawn fire from gun-rights groups.
“I don’t want to wait for a massive tragedy,” said Councilman Ash Kalra, who proposed the gun safety ordinance along with Councilman Raul Peralez, a former police officer. “I want us to do something now to get illegal guns off the street.”
However, the policy is raising concerns among San Jose business owners who say it’s impractical, difficult to enforce and won’t stop violent crime.
“It’s just another law that’s unnecessary and will put law-abiding citizens in a position where it’s going to be difficult to defend themselves,” said Steve Zehring, co-owner of Mel Cotton’s Sporting Goods, which sells rifles and shotguns.
In addition, some Silicon Valley gun owners contend the proposed measures go too far and infringe on their constitutional rights.
“All of these policies in some way infringe upon our Second Amendment rights,” said Yih-Chau Chang, a spokesman for Responsible Citizens of California, a Fremont-based group that advocates for people’s right to carry firearms. “If your home is invaded, you’re not going to be able to quickly access your firearm if it’s locked up.”
The proposed law, dubbed the “gun violence prevention ordinance,” appears to mirror some existing and proposed state requirements, but it would require all gun owners to store guns inside a locked container at home or disable them with a trigger lock, not just those with children in the house as mandated under current state law.
While existing state law requires locking up guns inside moving or unattended vehicles, Kalra and Peralez propose that the firearms be placed inside a mounted lock box to further deter thieves.
Another part of San Jose’s proposal would require ammunition vendors like Mel Cotton’s to record all ammunition sales in an electronic log. A bill signed into law in July by Gov. Jerry Brown requires licenses for ammunition sellers and background checks for buyers, but it doesn’t go into effect until 2019.
Also, instead of requiring gun owners to report a missing or stolen firearm in five days as proposed by a new state bill, San Jose residents would need to notify law enforcement within 48 hours under the proposal.
“We’re not trying to take people’s guns away,” said Kalra, who’s running for state Assembly, adding that he’s been working on the policy for nearly two years. “We’re trying to do things that are practical and will make a difference.”
A City Council committee considered the regulations Wednesday following nearly an hour of testimony from gun-safety advocates. The committee unanimously ordered city staff to analyze the policy and bring it back in two weeks. If later approved by the full City Council, some portions of the rules could be enacted immediately, Kalra said.
Members of the Safe Cities Coalition, a group formed earlier this year that helped draft the policy, called the decision a victory.
“There are zero gun laws in San Jose,” said Irena Olender, one of the group’s founders. “There are laws in neighboring cities, but San Jose is blank.”
Oakland earlier this year adopted measures to ban high-capacity magazines and to require gun owners to secure their guns in locked boxes at home and in their cars. The National Rifle Association’s state chapter has threatened to sue Oakland over the new laws.
San Francisco’s elected leaders passed a bill banning the possession of large-capacity magazines and a similar law in Sunnyvale survived a legal challenge from the NRA and other gun advocates earlier this year. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected arguments that the restrictions are unconstitutional.
To Zehring, who said his store sells 1 million rounds of ammunition a year, tracking that much data would be a “logistical nightmare.”
“It’s very broad and doesn’t say what type of ammunition,” Zehring said. “How in the world am I going to track 1 million rounds of ammunition to every person that comes in?”
But San Jose leaders say gun violence cannot be ignored. More than 100,000 Americans are affected by gun violence every year. The U.S. Justice Department estimates about 232,000 guns are stolen in burglaries in the United States each year, according to a 2012 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the last data available.
The issue hits close to home for Councilman Chappie Jones, who was nearly shot when he was a teenager by a friend who got his hands on the family’s gun.
“He tried to shoot at me and by a matter of inches, he missed me,” Jones told the committee. “This hits me on a personal level and a policy level.”