Gun and bullets, shooting
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Handgun owners would be required to store their firearms in locked containers or disable them with trigger locks under a proposal that received preliminary approval Tuesday from the Los Angeles City Council.

The council voted 14-0 to instruct its attorneys to prepare an ordinance regulating the storage of handguns. The ordinance would be modeled after a recent Sunnyvale law that has so far stood up to legal challenges from gun rights groups, proponents said.

The ordinance, which would apply only to handguns and not to larger firearms such as rifles, will have to return to the council for a final vote.

The measure was championed by Councilman Paul Krekorian and backed by activists who said it is a necessary precaution against weapons falling into the hands of children who may unintentionally fire the weapon at themselves or others.

Krekorian said the majority of shooting deaths of children that happen around the country “occur because a gun was not safely maintained in a home.”

He added that the ordinance would help reduce the number of stolen guns that might later be used in crimes and curb the number of suicides.

Krekorian said safe storage of guns is supported by the National Rifle Association.

“Even the NRA itself, any responsible gun owner … advocacy organization, will say that even if you choose to keep a handgun in your home for self-defense, you should safely store that handgun. It’s the only responsible thing for a gun owner to do,” he said.

“So when we hear about imposition on the rights of law-abiding gun owners, no — what this ordinance does is it asks gun owners to act responsibly like the law-abiding people that they feel that they are,” he said.

City attorneys were instructed to write an ordinance that would require any handgun stored at home to be kept in a locked container, disabled with a trigger lock, carried by the owner or kept “within close enough proximity and control that the owner can readily retrieve and use the handgun as if carried on the person.”

Violating the proposed ordinance could result in a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

The proposal hit a roadblock earlier this summer when the Los Angeles police officers’ union asked the Public Safety Committee to include amendments exempting reserve or retired law enforcement officials.

Krekorian balked at the suggested exemptions and pushed to get the issue out of committee so other council members could also weigh in on the issue.

During a Public Safety Committee meeting this morning prior to the full council vote, Krekorian submitted revisions that give leeway for gun owners who are carrying their firearms or have them within reach.

The changes garnered the support of the police union and the Los Angeles Police Department, but Margot Bennett, executive director of Women Against Gun Violence, said the group would not back the ordinance unless it contained stronger language.

Bennett said the provisions do not specify that the guns be kept within a person’s control — as the Sunnyvale law requires — and would still leave the guns within easy reach of children.

“I was able just this morning to pull up two pages of many cases where children were killed where the gun was either on the person on the gun owner or within proximity, as though that gun was on the person,” she told the committee.

Councilman Mike Bonin also said he opposed the exemption allowing handgun owners to keep their firearms nearby instead of locked away or disabled.

“It’s a loophole that sort of undoes the intent of the ordinance for me,” he said.

Krekorian later agreed to tweak the wording so the ordinance would require guns to be in a person’s “control” if it is not locked away, disabled or carried.

Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said he supports the law and called it “reasonable,” but he expressed skepticism that such laws would have much effect on gun-related deaths of children.

“There is no amount of any possible legislation to pre-empt stupidity, negligence and criminal behavior, no matter what we do here today,” he said.

Chad Cheung, a director of the CalGuns Shooting Sports Association, spoke against the issue in committee, saying there are “tons and tons of laws already on the books that require these types of safety measures in place,” including those that require guns to come with trigger locks.

“Adding one more that could potentially reduce somebody’s ability to defend themselves when somebody breaks into their homes is just unreasonable,” Cheung said. “You cannot legislate negligence, you only can educate it. If you want to help people, I suggest you provide free firearm education with every purchase.”

Proponents of safe storage laws have said that while guns are required to come with trigger locks, there is no requirement for those locks to be used or that guns be stored away in a locked container.

— City News Service 

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