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Newsletter: Essential California: Needles wants to be a ‘sanctuary city’ for the 2nd Amendment

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A 2011 photo of a mural on the side of Cub’s Liquor located on West Broadway between C Street and D Street in Needles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, June 27, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

In California, the term “sanctuary” is most closely associated with the immigration debate.

But here, in the state with the most stringent gun control laws in the country, a tiny, desert town has pronounced itself to be a “sanctuary city” of a different sort.

Earlier this month, the Needles City Council passed a resolution declaring itself to be a “2nd Amendment sanctuary city.”

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Much like the sanctuary resolutions on immigration made by small California towns, the news value of Needles’ declaration is largely symbolic.

But the roughly 5,000-person city does have a few concrete asks for the state Legislature and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office, which largely revolve around Needles’ geographical location on California’s easternmost edge, at the confluence of the Arizona and Nevada borders.

To Needles City Manager Rick Daniels, it’s necessary to understand what and where Needles is, in order to understand what they are asking for.

“Get out your atlas of California and find out where Needles is,” he told me. “We are 200 miles from San Bernardino — our own county seat — and probably almost 300 miles from downtown L.A.”

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Through a quirk of geographic isolation, the three-traffic-signal town in the Mohave Valley is functionally closer to Nevada and Arizona than the rest of California.

“Nevada is about 5 or 10 miles away and Arizona is a couple hundred yards away,” Daniels explained. The closest California communities, Blythe and Barstow, are 100 and 140 miles away, respectively.

From its rail depot origins to its positioning on historic Route 66, Needles — which is nicknamed “the Gateway to California” — has long been a place people passed through on their way to other places. Like many in search of the California dream, the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” made Needles their first stop in the state.

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A view of Broadway, which is also part of historic Route 66, through Needles.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

“It was a railroad town historically, and now they are relying on cannabis sales,” Sandra Emerson, who covers San Bernardino County government for Southern California News Group’s four inland papers, explained.

[See also: “Needles declared itself a “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” city; wants exemption to some state gun laws” by Sandra Emerson in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin]

The only grocery store in town shuttered in 2014. It was replaced by a 99 Cents Only store, which has also since closed. The storefront remains vacant. In the furnace-like months of late summer, no one is surprised if Needles beats out Death Valley for the highest daily temperature recorded in the contiguous United States.

“Joyce and I have to go to Arizona to buy groceries,” Daniels said of him and his wife. The couple makes monthly treks up to Las Vegas, 90 minutes away, to go to Costco and Trader Joe’s. And the town’s school sports teams participate in a Nevada league.

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“We are probably culturally and economically more a part of Nevada and Arizona,” the city manager said.

“The problem,” according to Daniels, “is that residents from Nevada come over into Needles and they may forget that they have their concealed weapon in their glove compartment,” which could potentially lead to a felony charge, because California does not recognize concealed carry permits issued in other states. The city wants the San Bernardino County sheriff to consider exercising discretion when stopping border state residents with those permits.

They also want the Legislature to consider a reciprocity agreement that would recognize concealed carry permits issued in Arizona and Nevada. According to Daniels, it’s an issue of convenience and economics, since “right now, we have anecdotes and testimony and letters that people drive around Needles so they don’t make that mistake.”

The city also wants an exemption from a relatively recent gun law that made it illegal to import ammunition into California. They say it’s unfair to Needles, since there are six gun shops on the border, but Needles residents have to trek to Blythe or Barstow to purchase ammunition.

“Questions about the resolution’s legal standing loom,” according to the Sacramento Bee, but Needles leaders plan to meet with the sheriff’s office and their legislators about these issues.

And what of that politically contentious “sanctuary” title?

“If the council were to do it again, I would drop that,” Daniels said. “Because it confuses people about what we’re a sanctuary for.” Daniels explained that the city had actually adopted a resolution three years ago when the state declared itself a sanctuary state, making clear that they were “not an immigrant sanctuary city.”

“We’re just not of that mind. It’s a different political culture,” Daniels said.

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And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

TOP STORIES

Contractors with white ancestry claiming Cherokee heritage have gotten hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts meant for minorities, a Times investigation found. One Paso Robles-based business owner, a member of the self-declared Western Cherokee Nation tribe, said his grandmother lives on a Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma. There are no Cherokee reservations in that state. Los Angeles Times

After months of stalled contract negotiations, grocery workers at Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Ralphs stores voted this week to give union leaders the authority to call a strike. Los Angeles Times

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L.A. STORIES

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Patrons of Tonga Hut, said to be LA’s oldest tiki bar, take refugee in the dark and cool environment on a summer day in North Hollywood.
(Nick Agro / For The Times)

Columnist Chris Erskine delivers a gorgeous ode to “noir bars,” his term for the dark sanctuaries we duck into on blistering summer afternoons. Los Angeles Times

The three-month battle over whether robots will replace jobs at the Port of Los Angeles may be all but over. Maersk, the global shipping giant, has announced that it will move ahead with introducing driverless cargo carriers at its port terminal regardless of the outcome of an L.A. City Council vote scheduled for Friday. Los Angeles Times

When Nita Lelyveld wrote about L.A.’s disappearing weird textures, readers responded — and said it’s happening in cities all over the country. Los Angeles Times

From the Annals of IRL Branded Content: Santa Monica Pier will transform into the “Upside Down” this weekend ahead of the “Stranger Things” premiere. Los Angeles Times

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Subscribe to the Los Angeles Times.

IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Thousands more troops are expected to arrive in Tijuana on Friday. Mexico plans to deploy 15,000 troops along the entire northern border with the United States to secure the border and prevent migrants from crossing into the United States. San Diego Union-Tribune

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Rent control could be back on the California ballot in 2020. Los Angeles Times

California has ended its last out-of-state private prison contract, with the final 33 inmates recently transferred out of a private prison in Arizona. Use of out-of-state prisons was considered a “temporary solution” to major overcrowding in the mid-aughts. Sacramento Bee

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is starring in a new ad plugging electric cars. Wired

The San Francisco school board unanimously voted to destroy a school mural at Washington High that features slaves and a dead Native American. “It might be art and it can also be racist; it can be both,” a board member said of the Depression-era mural. San Francisco Chronicle

CRIME AND COURTS

Former USC gynecologist George Tyndall has been charged with committing more than two dozen felonies at the campus clinic where he practiced for decades. He has denied any wrongdoing. Los Angeles Times

Celebrity chef Thomas Keller and the French Laundry have been cleared in a pregnancy discrimination trial. San Francisco Chronicle

The “Angry Birds” game makers are suing an L.A. hot chicken restaurant named “Angry Birdz” for trademark infringement. Eater LA

HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

The days of off-road riding at the Oceano Dunes may be numbered, after years of controversy and debate at California’s largest and busiest campground. San Luis Obispo Tribune

There was diminished water quality at popular beaches across Southern California after an exceptionally wet winter on the heels of the worst fire year in the state’s history, according to Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card. Los Angeles Times

An in-depth look at why Californians with severe mental illness are often caught cycling between prison and the streets. KPCC

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

The rise and fall of Laguna Beach as a gay California hotspot. Curbed

A renowned Fresno State professor who researched perceptions of time and kindness around the world has died at 73. Fresno Bee

Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant has declined his $31.5-million player option and will become an unrestricted free agent. ESPN

After three decades in Orange County, Mitsubishi Motors is relocating its North American headquarters to a Tennessee suburb of Nashville. Mitsubishi is not the first Japanese automaker to exit California for one of the “lower-cost Southern states.” Los Angeles Daily News

There’s been lots of news about Quibi — Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg’s billion-dollar video start-up — in recent days. But this tidbit is particularly relevant to the Central Valley: The short-form content platform is working on a sci-fi drama that will be set in Merced. It remains unclear whether the show will also be shot in the city, which is roughly equidistant between Stockton and Fresno on the 99. Merced Sun-Star

A daily nonstop flight between Palm Springs and Sacramento will begin service in September. Desert Sun

Los Angeles Times restaurant critics Patricia Escárcega and Bill Addison are launching “Tasting Notes,” a food-centered newsletter that will take you beyond their weekly reviews, straight into the white-hot and very well-seasoned heart of America’s most dynamic restaurant city. (Yes, that city is Los Angeles, don’t @ me.) Think behind-the-scenes insights, off-the-page action and intel on where to find L.A. tortillas that can passably stand in for those of Hermosillo. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: partly sunny, 77. San Diego: partly sunny, 71. San Francisco: windy, 64. San Jose: windy, 73. Sacramento: sunny, 80. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Erin Reiche:

“In 1964, we moved to Berkeley from Nebraska for work. My dad’s college roommate in Boulder was from Tiburon, and he used to take us camping in Marin County to hunt abalone. We kids would spend the day tide-pooling, watching sea anemones’ tentacles change and little octopuses shoot ink, then eating abalone steak fried in the campfire on the bluffs. I still have some of those beautiful abalone shells. He introduced us to peace and freedom marches, where we listened to Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. We weren’t in Nebraska anymore!”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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