Arcata may regulate gun storage

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

ARCATA – At the request of two high school students, the Arcata City Council will discuss Wednesday, May 16 whether to create an ordinance requiring gun owners to keep their firearms unloaded and locked up when not in use. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber at 736 F St. in Arcata.

Freshmen Olivia Joachim and Eva Swartz, who attend the Northcoast Preparatory Academy high school in Arcata, wrote a letter to the council May 2 asking that it amend the Arcata Municipal Code to require firearms to be kept in safe storage when not in use.

“Seventy percent of deaths related to child shootings could have been prevented if the firearm was locked and stored safely,” the students wrote. “Storing guns in lockers or safes would prevent minors from accessing them.”

“A study by Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence showed that 1.7 million minors live in homes with unlocked, loaded firearms,” the students wrote. “This has been shown to contribute to suicide among minors, as well as violence against others with a fIrearm belonging to an adult.”

The students wrote that Massachusetts requires firearms to be unloaded and stored in lockers and safes. Guns, they wrote, account for nine percent of youth suicides in Massachusetts compared to 39 percent of youth suicides in the nation as a whole.

At tonight’s meeting, the council will discuss the proposal and could direct staff to develop an ordinance to be brought before the council at a future meeting.

In a report to the council, Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer explains the current state of gun laws.

“Unless otherwise unlawful, any person over the age of 18, who is not prohibited from possessing firearms, may have a loaded or unloaded firearm at his/her place of residence,” Diemer wrote.

“California Penal Code Section 25100 makes it a crime to store a loaded firearm that is accessible to a child if the child obtains the firearm and causes injury or death and/or carries the firearm into a public place,” Diemer wrote.

Diemer also spells out some of the implications of passing such an ordinance.

“A violation of such an ordinance would likely not come to light unless law enforcement was called to a home on a report of a burglary or other criminal activity, or unless officers recover a firearm after it has been used in a crime, the firearm is owned by someone other than the suspect, and it becomes clear that the firearm had been stolen or lost,” Diemer wrote. “In implementing a safe storage ordinance, the City does not want to create a deterrent to reporting stolen firearms that had not been kept in a locked container or disabled with a locking device, especially immediately following the ordinance being enacted. If the council provides direction to move forward with a safe storage Ordinance, staff can provide options to still encourage reports of stolen firearms.”

The NPA students are pushing for the new regulations through a group they formed called Save Lives, Use Gun Storage (S.L.U.G.S.).


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