California Journal: What San Francisco is proposing to help keep guns out of the wrong hands


There are two kinds of people in this country: Those who think greater gun regulation can help stem the bloodshed and those who don’t.

I appreciate the passion that many law-abiding Americans have for their guns, but I strongly believe that we can do so much more to make sure the wrong people do not get their hands on them.

So count me — like most Americans — on the side of universal background checks, a closing of the gun show loophole and a ban on the sale of high-capacity magazines (all things we have done in California, which has a lower rate of death from firearms than states with fewer regulations). And sorry to all you AR-15 lovers out there, but bullet button or not, I wouldn’t be too sad to see your semiautomatic rifles melted down for scrap.


I’m all for Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to ban the possession of high-capacity magazines, as well as require instant background checks for ammunition purchases and the reporting of all gun thefts.

I am also on the side of demanding that people who own and carry guns do everything in their power to make sure their weapons are safely stored, and not susceptible to theft or discovery by curious children.

Officials in San Francisco, where car break-ins are as common as cable car bells, are proposing regulations for how guns are stored in vehicles. The move comes in response to an astonishing number of recent Bay Area news stories demonstrating that gun owners, particularly those who work in law enforcement, are far too casual about how they transport their weapons when they are off duty.

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On June 27, a gun was stolen from the car of a federal Bureau of Land Management ranger in San Francisco. Four days later, a young woman out for a stroll on San Francisco’s Pier 14 was killed. The suspect, an immigrant in the country illegally, said he found the gun.

Whatever else you think about Kathryn Steinle’s tragic death and her accused killer’s legal status, there is no getting past the fact that a gun left unsecured in a car led to an unspeakable loss.

On Aug. 21, UC Berkeley Police Chief Margo Bennett returned to her car after a run at the Point Isabel Regional Shoreline in Richmond and discovered that someone had stolen her black computer bag from the cargo area of her Ford Escape. The bag contained her loaded gun, her badge, her police department ID, her laptop, tablet, cellphone and a diamond ring. In an email to colleagues, reported the San Francisco Chronicle, Bennett said that “in retrospect” she should have put her gun and badge in the spare tire well.

A few days later, a gun belonging to a Hayward police officer was stolen from a parked car in Oakland.

I could go on. And you know what? I think I will.

On Sept. 29, a 27-year-old painter named Antonio Ramos was working on an anti-violence mural in Oakland when he was shot to death. The gun his killer used had been stolen two weeks earlier from a rental car parked in San Francisco. The Glock 26 was owned by a federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officer.

In early October, a backpacker from Canada was shot to death in Golden Gate Park. Two days later, a yoga instructor hiking with his dog in Marin County was shot to death. The trio of transients arrested in the two killings are believed to have used a handgun that was stolen from an unlocked car near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Less than two weeks later, on Oct. 18, the personal gun of a California Highway Patrol officer was stolen from his parked car in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood. The gun was in a backpack in the front seat.

To try to put an end to this craziness, San Francisco Supervisor David Campos has introduced a measure that would require anyone — off-duty law enforcement or civilian — who leaves a gun in an unattended vehicle to either lock the weapon in the trunk and disable any automatic trunk release latch, or store the gun in a lock box that is affixed to the vehicle. Breaking the law would be a misdemeanor, punishable by six months in jail or a $10,000 fine.

This could be a model law for the rest of the state — Oakland has introduced a similar measure — and even for the rest of the country (though that is probably too much to hope for).

San Francisco supervisors may vote on the measure as early as Tuesday.

If we’re going to be awash in guns, let’s at least make sure they don’t flow to kids and criminals.

Twitter: @AbcarianLAT


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