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Gun Control: The New Measure Could Require Locking Up Guns at Home

SAN JOSE — The Bay Area’s largest city could pass a law requiring gun owners to lock up their firearms when they leave the house — a new gun control measure for stricter than state legislation, two weeks after a man gunned down 59 people at an outdoor Las Vegas concert.


The idea is under consideration Tuesday by San Jose city councilmen Ash Kalra — now a state assemblyman — and Raul Peralez. In addition to requiring gun owners to lock up their weapons when they are not home, they would need to place them in a lock box in unattended cars, report theft within 48 hours and ammunition vendors would need to keep records of sales.


But new state legislation last year covered many of those gun control policies, except locking up firearms when an owner is not home. The San Jose City Council on Tuesday will debate that policy, which some experts say could be difficult to accomplish. And now Perlez — joined by Councilman Chappie Jones — wants to go further. They want gun owners to secure firearms inside the house even when they’re home.


San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have the same safe storage gun laws.


The lawmakers said in a joint memo that nearly 1,300 children die and 5,800 are injured in gun-related incidents every year. They said a gun is stolen every two minutes in the United States and 38 percent of suicides by gunfire are committed by kids under age 17. Nearly half of the country’s fatal suicides are done with guns.


Peralez, a former San Jose police officer who just rejoined the force as a reserve, owns a gun and has a covered weapons permit. He said he respects the Second Amendment and people’s right to bear arms, but the country’s founding fathers never predicted: “a civilian possessing 47 guns, which would include over a dozen high-powered rifles” used to carry out the country’s deadliest mass shooting in Las Vegas.


“With such high numbers of gun-related deaths, homicides and suicides, gun safety measures and precautions are more important than ever,” they wrote.


Irena Olender, a member of the Safe Cities Coalition, a group formed in 2016 to draft the policy, said guns should be a treat for “public health issue.”


“We want people to realize that guns in the house are dangerous and they need to be secured so they’re not accessed by kids,” Olender said. “People can secure them with something as simple as a trigger box — not even a lock box.”


But Tony Napolitano, a Republican attorney, said safe storage laws have the opposite effect: They often increase violent crime, he said, because criminals are emboldened knowing the victim doesn’t have easy access to their weapon to defend themselves.


“It allows criminals to become more brazen because they know the guns will be locked up,” he said. He added that the policy also allows them to be victimized twice — police become aware that a gun owner’s firearm was unsecured when they respond to a burglary or other property crime. Then the gun owner could be cited for an unlocked weapon. “It puts them in the position of being punished for being the victim.”


Other gun advocates have said it takes too long for a gun owner to unlock a trigger lock if they are attacked. Olender does not buy that argument.


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