Mayor Sam Liccardo wants gun retailers in San Jose to video record all firearm purchases, ban home gun sales, and tighten up licensing for handguns, as part of a suite of changes to the city’s gun safety ordinance.
The proposed regulations are aimed in large part at thwarting straw purchases, where someone buys a gun for a person barred from having firearms, like felons and most minors.
“Guns are entering our community from legal gun shops,” Liccardo said Tuesday. “But they’re being purchased by people other than those who ultimately intend to carry and use the guns.”
As the mayor said he had anticipated, gun-rights advocates, like the Sacramento-based Firearms Policy Coalition, criticized the proposed rules, calling them “unconstitutional, burdensome and irrational.”
“The city’s proposed gun control package is just more virtue-signaling from ignorant politicians who hate the Constitution and people like us,” the organization wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Under the proposal, co-signed by Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, the city would ban the sale of guns or ammunition from residences in San Jose and require a license for the sale, transfer, or advertisement within the city of concealable firearms and ammunition. In addition, gun retailers would be required to display signs giving information about gun laws, suicide prevention and domestic violence.
At a news conference at San Jose Police Department headquarters Tuesday, Liccardo was accompanied by Police Chief Eddie Garcia, the local chapters of the advocacy groups Moms Demand Action and March for Our Lives, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and Pastor Danny Sanchez, chaplain for the crisis-response team of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force. Nationally, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Giffords Law Center also endorsed the city’s efforts.
“The existence of so many illegal guns on the street is a constant threat to our communities and the officers protecting those communities,” Garcia said. The proposed regulation, he said, “will give us another tool to ensure that legally sold firearms are not falling into the hands of those who are prohibited from possessing them.”
Jessica Blitchok, a co-leader of the San Jose chapter of Moms Demand Action, said the practices the city hopes to codify are already in place at large retailers like Walmart.
“These provisions are not radical proposals. Many of these proposed measures have been standard business practice for years around the country,” Blitchok said. “It’s just common sense.”
City officials noted that San Jose is one of only a handful of large U.S. cities that have proposed these types of regulations. While Liccardo and the policy’s supporters stand to receive blowback from state and national gun-rights advocates, the political risk is relatively small: only about 24 gun retailers, including independent gun shops and sporting goods stores, would be affected.
This news organization visited two gun shops in San Jose after the mayor’s announcement. One owner declined to comment. The other asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, but said that gun stores already display signs about gun laws and have surveillance cameras that record gun buys.
“We all watch for straw purchases,” the owner said. “If I think someone is breaking the law, I’m not going to go to jail for them.”
He took issue with the proposed ban on residential gun sales, arguing it would unfairly penalize private gun transactions, and said the rule is directed at the wrong end of the transaction.
“This is just making it harder for honest people,” he said. “These criminals, why don’t they go after them instead?”
Sanchez, the pastor involved in the city’s gang-prevention and intervention work, said initiatives like Liccardo is proposing are intended to go after those very criminals.
“We see firsthand the pain, the sorrow, the suffering, and the loss of lives to gun violence,” Sanchez said. “These are mostly children shooting children and have no access to guns.”
He added, “I know there are responsible gun owners out there, I know this is not a cure-all.”
The mayor is also urging the City Council to extend city gun ordinance requirements to people who provide or download schematics for firearms or gun components that can be made with 3D printers, in the absence of state legislation to close what he calls a loophole in gun-control laws.
“We’re going to be modernizing an ordinance that hasn’t been updated since 1980,” Liccardo said. “We need to ensure all forms of technology are captured by these basic gun regulations.”
Liccardo stressed that he and the city have strong legal standing to implement the changes. He noted that as long as gun buyers are made aware that they are being recorded — with signs and other methods — the city is covered by prevailing case law.
“Where there are guns there are lawyers,” he said. “I’m sure there will be lawsuits.”
But, he said. “We believe we have been very careful crafting this proposal to ensure that this complies fully with the Second Amendment.”
The Firearms Policy Coalition said it would gladly fulfill the mayor’s expectations of legal action.
“If the city ignores the Constitution and proceeds to pass this awful proposal, we will be delighted to force the city to pay our attorneys hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs after we beat them in court,” the organization wrote.
The amendments to the city’s gun ordinance are expected to be presented to the whole City Council within two weeks.
“‘We’re hoping this will be the start of a regional effort,” Liccardo said.
© 2019 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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