By Lloyd Alaban
Following last month’s shooting at a VTA light rail yard, San Jose lawmakers want to clamp down on illegal firearm purchases by requiring gun shops to video record all sales and conduct stricter inventory checks.
Those are just two new rules the San Jose City Council will consider Tuesday to prevent so-called “straw purchases,” or when a person purchases a gun for someone else.
“This proposed ordinance will modernize San Jose’s regulation of the sale, lease and transfer of firearms,” reads a city memo. “Taken together, these actions are intended to promote public safety and reduce the risk of gun violence in our community.”
If approved, gun shop employees and owners will be required to question potential buyers to make sure they’re not looking to start a straw purchase. Buying a firearm from or inside a residence would also be prohibited. The ordinance will require shops to display suicide prevention posters and perform at least one inventory check each year.
“I think the videotaping of all sales would help incentivize accountability. Gun shops are more likely to be sure all staff are trained in—and follow—the law if they know they are being videotaped,” said Susie MacLean in a letter to the council. MacLean is a retired physician and board member of Scrubs Addressing the Firearm Epidemic, a gun control advocacy group made up of medical professionals. “I do not think we can count on random inspections to ensure accountability.”
The council approved an initial draft of the ordinance in 2019. Chicago already has similar laws in place, and San Francisco almost adopted similar rules in 2015, but its last gun shop closed before the city could do so.
While the proposal has strong support from at least three councilmembers and Mayor Sam Liccardo, gun rights activists say these regulations will restrict law-abiding firearm owners of their rights and will run gun shops out of the city.
“These are small businesses. It’s already hard enough to do business in the gun retail market,” Brian Wang, owner of San Jose-based gun safety school Monarch Defense, told San José Spotlight. “But now the city of San Jose is taking arbitrary control, arbitrary schemes just to make life hard on these gun stores. It’s very clear they’re trying to take the last couple of gun stores in the city and just kill them.”
The proposed rules are part of sweeping reforms Liccardo put forward last week at a news conference. He’s pushing to require gun owners to carry liability insurance—something he proposed in 2019 after a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival before shelving plans due to the pandemic.
Liccardo also wants to require gun owners to pay fees to support emergency medical and police response related to gun violence. It’s unclear how much gun owners could pay in fees, a decision left up to the full City Council.
“Cities cannot wait for Congress and certainly not for the courts to protect residents from gun violence,” Liccardo said last week. “These gun deaths are preventable and we can save lives and make our community safer, but we need to recognize gun violence for what it is: A public health crisis.”
Gun lobby groups promise to challenge any regulations passed by the council.
“It is outrageous that Mayor Liccardo wants to use big brother-style “omniveillance” to record gun owners’ every move,” Taylor Svehlak, director of public affairs for the Firearms Policy Coalition, told San José Spotlight. “This Orwellian requirement would be rightly universally opposed were the city to impose similar video- and audio-recording mandates in mosques and churches, book stores or abortion clinics.”
The VTA mass shooter, a 57-year-old employee, had three 9mm pistols and 32 high-capacity magazines, according to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities said the shooter fired 39 bullets. The magazines, which held more than 10 rounds, are illegal in California.
The three guns were legally obtained and registered, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair.
The San Jose City Council meets Tuesday at 11 a.m. For more information on how to participate or to tune in, click here.
This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.