Alameda: Council seeks a pair of gun safety ordinances

With an eye toward preventing gun violence, Alameda officials on Tuesday night will discuss a pair of ordinances to promote gun safety. Under the propose legislation, Alameda gun owners would be required to store their personal firearms in either a locked gun safe or place trigger locks on the weapons.  An additional ordinance would make it mandatory for gun dealers to install surveillance cameras at the store’s premises, along with the videotaping of all firearms sales.

San Francisco has a similar gun storage ordinance on its books, which was upheld in federal court. Violations of the proposed safe storage ordinance includes citations and fines. However, gun owners would receive a 24-hour grace period for reporting the lost or stolen firearms even if they were in non-compliance with the gun storage ordinance. Under state law, gun owners have five days to report lost or stolen guns to local authorities.

“Staff recommends encouraging quicker reporting of lost or stolen firearms as time is of the essence when tracking missing firearms. The recommendation to encourage reporting lost or stolen firearms is balanced with deterrence efforts by still allowing discretion for administrative citations for safe storage violations,” according to a city staff report.

Video surveillance of gun sales, according to staff report, could prevent so-called “straw purchases” when firearms are bought on behalf of someone who is previously prohibited from buying guns. The video recordings can also aid law enforcement in solving crimes, city staff wrote.

San Francisco, Emeryville, Campbell, and Pleasant Hill have similar gun sales surveillance ordinances.

The video surveillance aspect of the council’s proposal has received push back from Allen Michaan, owner of the well-known Alameda auction house, which often offers antique firearms for sale. Michaan had previously sought a carve out in the ordinance for collectible firearms.

“I emphasize that the firearms and related material that we would be selling are most certainly not something that anyone who would be considering committing a crime would want to purchase as they are both very old and usually many times more costly than a brand new weapon such as those that are readily available at a local sporting goods outlet,” Michaan wrote to the city council on Monday.

Even though the scourge of gun violence seen in so many U.S. cities, including some in the Bay Area, has largely evaded Alameda, Councilmembers John Knox White and Jim Oddie believed the city needed to do its part, rather than pontificate on the issue.

Last September, Knox White and Oddie successfully urged the city council to hold town halls on gun violence with the intent of forming tangible legislation for Alameda.

“Our goal out of this is to have a conversation on how we can best address this issue of gun violence because it seems like every week somebody dies because somebody has an assault weapon,” Oddie said last September. “If you say ‘Our thoughts are with you,” that’s not going to solve the problem. If we continue to say platitudes, that’s not going to solve the problem and people are asking for action.”