The San Diego City Council Monday tentatively approved an ordinance that would require gun owners to store guns in a locked container or disable them with a trigger lock when not in use or being worn on their person.
City Attorney Mara Elliott proposed the ordinance last month with the intention of reducing accidental shootings, children’s access to guns and suicides. According to Elliott, 46% of gun owners in the U.S. who have children do not secure their guns and 73% of youngsters aged 9 and under know where their parents keep their guns.
Since 2002, the state has mandated that all guns sold in California have an accompanying trigger lock approved by the state Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms. Elliott said the ordinance is a “common-sense approach” to building on current state requirements.
The proposal’s supporters and opponents gave public comment on the proposal for nearly two hours before the council’s 6-2 vote. The measure’s supporters included gun control advocacy groups like San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention and Never Again California as well as Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego.
Wendy Wheatcroft, founder of San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention, framed the ordinance as a way to keep military veterans, first responders and law enforcement officers from committing suicide in addition to keeping guns away from children. As of June 19, 97 police officers and 46 firefighters have killed themselves in the U.S. since the beginning of this year, according to Wheatcroft.
“We need to attack this from all angles, not just locking up firearms but also making sure they have adequate mental health support,” Wheatcroft said. “But we also need to be reducing the means and the access to a firearm because in a moment of crisis, even having that gun locked up can be the difference between life and death.”
The proposal’s opponents said it infringes on their Second Amendment rights, particularly for gun owners who do not have children living with them. Under current state law, gun owners are required to keep firearms in a secure container or disabled with a device like a trigger lock only if they live with a person who cannot legally have a weapon under state or federal law.
Opponents also argued the proposal is unenforceable and that locking a gun in a safe would make it difficult to access and use in a moment of self- defense. Wendy Hauffen, executive administrator for the San Diego County Gun Owners political action committee, suggested breaking the law should be an infraction rather than a felony or misdemeanor.
“This will allow the storage conversation to be had, which is stated as one of the purposes for passing this regulation, while not filling jails full of violators,” Hauffen said. “Criminalizing normal activity has the potential to ruin a lot of innocent lives and this is especially a concern in a city like San Diego, where we have so many residents such as active-duty military, who come from so many other states where this kind of law doesn’t and would never exist.”