Council moves ahead with safe gun storage ordinance

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – The Arcata City Council has directed staff to develop an ordinance requiring firearm owners to store their weapons in a secure location in their homes.

While an established body of state law already prohibits various forms of negligent firearm storage, a city staff report states that “many local governments” have enacted further requirements.

The additional storage restrictions are based on findings regarding firearm injuries, homicides, suicides, unintentional shootings and the effectiveness of firearm storage restrictions.

At last week’s council meeting, City Attorney Nancy Diamond said that Arcata’s ordinance will be closely based on one enacted by the City and County of San Francisco. That ordinance’s language survived a Second Amendment challenge which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ordinance would prohibit firearms from being kept in an Arcata residence unless they are inside a locked container, disabled with a trigger lock or in someone’s immediate possession. They may be loaded or unloaded.

The staff report acknowledges enforcement shortcomings with the ordinance. “A violation of such an ordinance is most likely enforced after the fact: if a firearm is recovered after being used in a crime, or by observation by police officers during a call to a residence on a report of other crime.”

Interim Police Chief Rick Ehle said Arcata Police could follow up with a security check on any reports of unsafely stored firearms in violation of the ordinance, though violations could be based on state law rather than the local ordinance.

Diamond said violating the ordinance would typically be an infraction, though the council could elevate it to misdemeanor status.

A letter to the council cites studies which indicate that “70 percent of deaths related to child shootings could have been prevented if the firearm was locked and stored safely.” The letter, from Olivia Joachim and Eva Swartz, also states that unsecured firearms contribute to teen suicides and other gun violence.

Gun owner Aaron Ostrom, proprietor of Pacific Outfitters, voiced objections to the proposed ordinance. He described the ordinance as wrongheaded and counterproductive.

He said that storage in a safe would delay a firearm owner’s response to an emergency such as a home invasion, effectively leaving them defenseless. “You’re taking away people’s right to defend themselves,” Ostrom said. He said laws already on the books are sufficient, and that in order to be able to protect his family, he wouldn’t follow the Arcata ordinance. “You’re essentially turning me into a criminal for wanting to defend myself and my family in an emergency with reasonable force.”

Lea Eider, a sophomore at Northcoast Preparatory Academy, lauded the proposed ordinance. “Even if this ordinance only saves a single life, or even a single leg, it will have been worth it,” Eider said. “Please, pass this ordinance to protect students like me.”

The council directed Diamond to return with a draft Arcata gun storage ordinance for future consideration.


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