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South Bay Takes Aim at Gun Violence

PUBLISHED DEC 17, 2019 12:00 A.M.
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Almost 300 people participated in a day-long event that included round-table discussions about gun safety.

Almost 300 people participated in a day-long event that included round-table discussions about gun safety.   Dave Cortese, Twitter (Public Domain)

Last update: Nov. 20, 2019

The February 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed and 17 injured, inspired response from lawmakers and civic leaders here and nationwide. This Explainer follows recent legislative activity in Santa Clara County regarding gun violence and public safety. The timeline begins with a public forum that was intended to reset local response to this obstinate and heart-rending problem.

 I. On April 28, 2018, two months after the Parkland shooting, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese convened the Community Summit on Firearms and Safety. Its purpose was “to provide an opportunity to bring together a diverse group of county residents to connect, listen, share, and engage on topics related to firearms and safety in the County,” according to a report later released by Cortese’s office.  

The report continues: “During this time of grief, fear, confusion, and polarization the summit was designed to allow participants to talk about challenging issues, talk through and understand differences, and discuss opportunities for action.”

Prior to the summit, 80 people participated in three training sessions led by American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley to learn how to facilitate discussions “in a manner that emphasized productive dialogue and human connection.”

“Residents came together representing a wide variety of viewpoints and experiences with firearms, including National Rifle Association members, public health workers, educators, Second Amendment Rights advocates, students, clergy, parents and community leaders,” Cortese said following the event. “They were conservative and liberal, diverse in ethnicity, age and income.”

Cortese’s office and the Leadership Forum released a report after the event summarizing notes taken by 50 facilitators, and reporting results culled from 220 questionnaires. The report addresses topics including access to firearms; police response to mental health calls; trauma resulting from gun violence; guns in culture and media; racial inequalities and root causes of violence; youth violence; and firearms in the home.

Find the full report on the Santa Clara County Community Summit on Firearms and Safety here.

II. On Tuesday, May 8, 2018, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for preliminary adoption of an ordinance regulating firearms and ammunition on county property.

The ordinance "prohibit[s] the possession, sale or discharge of firearms and the possession or sale of ammunition on county property." County Counsel James Williams, who introduced the proposed ordinance, modeled it after ordinances passed by other California cities and counties, including San Mateo and Alameda counties.

The ordinance described a shooting that occurred at the YouTube headquarters in San Bruno in April 2018 as the most recent "random act of mayhem and violence using firearms" in Northern California.

The Department of Public Health put together this fact sheet on firearms in Santa Clara County.

Read more about the ban on guns on Santa Clara County property on Patch.

III. On May 8, 2019, Santa Clara County launched a campaign to encourage residents to voluntarily surrender unwanted guns to the Sheriff’s Office. The Firearms Relinquishment Program calls for drop-offs at the sheriff’s headquarters and two substations. Unlike gun buyback programs that pay per weapon, there’s no money exchanged in the new program.

Read more about the gun take-back program in the Mercury News.

IV. On July 28, 2019, a 19-year-old man gunned down 16 people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three.

Two weeks later, on August 12, citing the fact that two of the victims, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and 6-year-old Stephen Romero, were from his city, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo proposed a city ordinance that would require all firearm owners in the city to carry liability insurance for their weapons. If passed, it would be the first such requirement in the nation.

Gun owners who could not afford liability insurance could pay a fee “to compensate taxpayers for the public costs of firearm violence in America’s tenth largest city,” Liccardo said, describing the move as “something we can do to reduce the harms of firearms, without waiting for Congress to take action.

 “As Silicon Valley’s largest city, if we prove up this innovative solution and scale it across other cities and states, the history of ‘harm reduction’ efforts instructs that we can make a long-term impact.”

In addition to an insurance-or-fee mandate, Liccardo also proposed:

1. Imposing gun and ammunition sales taxes to help fund gun-safety programs;
2. Exploring a consent-to-search program allowing parents to have local law enforcement search a juvenile’s person or their property;
3. Creating a program offering cash rewards to anyone who reports unlawfully obtained weapons. 

Read about Mayor Sam Liccardo’s weapons-insurance proposal in The New York Times.

 V. The following day, on August 13, 2019, County Supervisor Dave Cortese introduced a proposal requiring safe storage for firearms in homes in unincorporated parts of the county. The Board gave the ordinance, the stated aim of which is to protect minors, unanimous preliminary approval. The ordinance would require the use of trigger locks and storage cabinets when firearms are not in use and not in the owner’s immediate possession.

San Jose Spotlight reports that California law already contains this requirement, as do Sunnyvale and San Jose city laws. but that Cortese’s proposal clarifies legal nuances for the 8 percent of residents who live in unincorporated areas of the county.

“People still consider firearms as tools of the trade on their ranches and rural land,” Cortese told San José Spotlight. “We want to make sure we don’t have ‘gotcha’ provisions. Stepping outside of your rural farmhouse with your gun inside your porch is a difference situation.”

Read more about the safe gun storage ordinance on San Jose Spotlight.

On Nov 19, 2019, the Board of Supervisors gave final approval to the safe gun storage proposal. Read that story on San Jose Spotlight.

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