More Cities Consider Gun Control

Mattie Scott stands in front of a packed house at the Mountain View City Council Chambers. She’s here to talk about her son and nephew, both of whom were killed in gun violence. As she tells her and the boys’ story, someone in the back shouts, “You’re disgusting!”

Another woman speaks about the gut-wrenching loss of her child, who was also shot and killed. Like Scott, she has come here to advocate for better gun control in her community. But not everyone has the same agenda. In the back of the chambers, a group of mostly white men are here to shout them down.

Some hold protest signs, while others wear yellow Star of David armbands. They are the persecuted—not the dead. Before the meeting ends, one of these men will tell Scott, an African American, to “go back to where you came from.”

Said one attendee, “I think there should have been a metal detector.”

This Feb. 8 meeting, held three months after Sunnyvale passed Measure C, a municipal gun-control ordinance, is only the beginning. Communities in Silicon Valley have unexpectedly become ground zero for gun nuts and the malevolent NRA, as towns like Los Gatos and Cupertino consider measures similar to Sunnyvale’s, which restricts the size of gun clips and requires greater record-keeping of firearms.

Forum organizer and Mountain View resident Sally Lieber, a former state assemblymember who in 2005 successfully co-authored a bill to ban sniper rifles, says the protesters were “hell bent on shouting down and stopping our forum. But we kept moving forward.” The anger displayed by pro-gun activists may have worked to drown out the speakers, Lieber adds, but there’s a far more substantial group that won’t be so easily intimidated: voters.

Officials from more than a half-dozen local municipalities—San Carlos, Menlo Park, Los Altos, Cupertino, San Jose and Los Gatos—are closely watching Sunnyvale’s case while considering their own initiatives in upcoming elections. The San Francisco–based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has begun providing free legal counsel to some of these cities in anticipation of the inevitable court challenges brought by the NRA and other pro-gun forces.

Sunnyvale’s Measure C, which came in direct response to the December 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., passed with 66 percent of voters approving a package of some of the most progressive gun-control laws in the country. The ordinance bans ownership of magazines to no more than 10 rounds, requires residents to lock up their guns at home, places the onus on gun-store owners to keep records of ammunition sales for two years and makes it a crime if lost or stolen guns are not reported within 48 hours.

As expected, the NRA took swift action, demanding a temporary injunction in federal court. Lawyers on both sides argued positions in Judge Ronald M. Whyte’s San Jose courtroom Friday.

Whyte’s decision is expected any day, and his ruling could be affected by a recent case in San Francisco, where a judge last week tossed out the NRA’s lawsuit against a city statute banning high-capacity magazines. An NRA spokesman said the organization will appeal that judge's decision. Overcoming an electorate could be far more difficult. While Congress has done nothing since the Newtown tragedy, polling shows that a broad majority of Americans favor greater gun control and background checks.

“The one thing [the NRA is] afraid of is the votes,” says Tony Spitaleri, who previously served as mayor of Sunnyvale and spearheaded Measure C. “We demonstrated that when you put sensible gun measures on the ballot, they pass. They can’t buy the voters. They can’t influence the voters with their money. So knowing that, that’s our leverage.”

Along with members of the Sunnyvale Citizens for Sensible Gun Measures and other gun-control groups, Spitaleri and Lieber are helping activists in other locales. And the Sunnyvale group is not done in its own town—even more gun-control measures could be on the way.

Activists in Los Gatos successfully lobbied the town council in September to enact tougher zoning laws when it comes to gun stores. That movement began when Templar Sports opened its doors just days after Newtown. Alarmed residents demanded the council revoke the gun-shop owners’ zoning permit, in part because there were no public hearings prior to the store’s opening. Templar was eventually allowed to remain open with new conditions, and an approval process was created for future gun stores.

Shannon Susick, a member of the Citizens Coalition for a Safe Los Gatos, says the group plans on starting the process of organizing toward a ballot measure this spring. “There’s more work to be done, that’s for sure,” she says.

The process in Sunnyvale took several months of organizing, says Spitaleri, who dedicated his last year in office to working with other concerned citizens on Measure C. He insists that he reached out to the NRA and other pro-gun advocates to find common ground. “They never called back,” he says.

A spokesman for the law firm representing the NRA in the Sunnyvale lawsuit told Metro in an email that his firm was too busy to respond to an interview request.

Spitaleri says the majority of gun owners want sensible laws on the books, and that it’s the gun industry and a small, vocal group that refuse to bend.

“These local measures are going to be their Achilles heel," he says. “It will weaken them, maybe driving them to sit down” and discuss solutions.

Spitaleri adds that most people he’s spoken to about gun control are not interested in taking away guns.

“We’re not there to say you’re not allowed to have a gun in your house to protect your family,” says Scott, who spoke at the forum as a representative of the groups Healing 4 Our Nation and Mothers in Charge. “They didn’t give us a chance to explain that.”

Regardless, the momentum appears to be leaning in favor of gun control.

“It was unfortunate that pro-gun activists didn't take advantage of the opportunity to listen and learn more about a movement that they oppose,” Lieber says. “We will keep organizing and continue to make further gains.”

43 Comments

  1. 5th amendment: “…nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

    This Sunnyvale law makes magazines illegal to possess, forcing people to give up property with no compensation. This is blatantly unconstitutional without even having to get into gin rights.

  2. How a requirement to keep your self-defense weapon locked can be “reasonable?”

  3. Too bad all these kids were killed with ILLEGAL guns wielded by criminals.

    Yet gun control laws only affect the law abiding. Violent felons are already forbidden to own or use a firearm, yet they still do.

    Gun control’s central premise if simply wrong. They say that ‘more guns = more crime”.

    Yet we have far more legal firearms and firearms owners in the US right now than at any other point in US history. If gun control had any validity, crime would be much higher than when they started back in the 1970s.

    Instead violent crime is half of what it was then. In fact all those firearms in law abiding peoples hands have lead to the lowest crime rate this century.

    Only a few states have been suckered in by the gun control lobby, with CA being the poster child. Articles like this try to make it seem like CA is in the mainstream.

    You are not.

    The rest of the country looks at CA and laughs at your gullibility to be manipulated by a failed and discredited dogma that doesn’t even make sense.

  4. My 3D plastic printed Ghost Gun has the biggest clips. They are 9 feet long and shoot 3000 bullets per minute!

  5. So Ms. Lieber of California, whatever happened to the existing laws on your books that supposedly made good gun sense (felons can’t possess, etc)? I’d have to say they didn’t do a damn thing since you’re back at the trough trying to fix the wrong problem, again. And when you’ve finally run out of water this year and the have-nots start to run rampant stealing and pillaging, who is going to protect you and your liberal neighbors from the violence, rape and murder? The cops? I don’t think so — they’ll be home protecting their own. Good luck, you’ll need it.

  6. The ban on same sex marriage in California was also overwhelmingly supported by voters. We all know how that turned out. The fact is that in the long term the anti-gun bigots will lose just like the anti-gay bigots.

  7. The other amendments do not stop at the door of our home. If they want to make a decision based on facts, they will consider FBI Reports that prove crime is reduced in areas where gun sales and ownership are higher. Please re-read that last sentence.

  8. Not everything should be held to a vote. This idea of being able to have the majority take the property of the minority by force is morally abhorrent.

    The function of a government is to protect the rights of the minority, allow mob rule to dictate the property rights of the minority. Protecting unpopular opinions and rights is what a free society should be doing.

    While some will no doubt dance and sing about their ability to wrestle away the rights of others, some will realize the scope of their actions. While this may seem like “common sense”, or somewhat minor in context of rights, it sets a very real precedence for what you empower the majority to do. To remove rights by majority, and to make theft legal.

  9. Reading this article would make you think these cities are standing up for gun control while the State legislature is held hostage by the NRA. Needless to say, California has been passing one gun control law after another at the state level, so it is hardly held hostage by anybody. These city laws seem to be little more than some sort of statement.

  10. Here is a link to a Harvard Law study which shows an inverse corellation between gun ownership and homicide/suicide.
    http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf

    And here is a link to an aggregation of statistics on gun ownership, crime distribution, relevant federal and local laws and some interesting issues not covered by law. I find it particularly troubling that the authors note that, as of 2010, federal law did NOT prohibit members of terrorist organizations from purchasing or possessing firearms or explosives. I find the following even more troubling: “* Between February 2004 and February 2010, 1,225 firearm and three explosives background checks for people on terrorist watch lists were processed through the federal background check system. Of these, 91% of the firearm transactions and 100% of the explosives transactions were allowed.”

    Some other relevant facts from the website:

    1. A 1994 survey conducted by the US CDC foudn that Americans had used firearms to frighten away home-invasion robbers nearly half a million times each year which is approximately 2700% greater than the total number of the CDC’s estimate of gun-related accidents that resulted in death or an ER visit (18,498) in 2001 (the first year such comparisons were possible).

    http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

    For those skeptics, please see the endnotes which include definitions and details of the relevant studies and date collected.

    From my personal experience, i can tell you that EVERY SINGLE person I ever arrested for an illegal firearm had either a sawed-off shotgun (many of which had been stolen) (one or two felonies) or a pistol with a defaced serial number which was later determined to be stolen (another two felonies). I am far more concerned about criminals using weapons which have been illegally obtained – and pistols and shotguns in particular – than I am with law-abiding citizens carrying permitted concealed weapons or with law abiding citizens owning rifles which share features with military assault rifles or with law abiding citizens owning high-capacity magazines. Most of the police officers I know feel much the same way. And, the data does not support the kinds of restrictions on weapon ownership proposed in Mountain View or elsewhere, those which have been passed in Sunnyvale, or, indeed, the kinds of restrictions on so-called assault weapons (which are generally far too expensive for most criminals to try to obtain) which is the law in California.

  11. The Sunnyvale magazine prohibition is well on its way to getting smacked down. The state of California entirely preempts all firearms laws, and the Sunnyvale ordinance is too strict.

    A hearing for Motion for Preliminary Injunction is set for mid-February. We shall see then how the case will go.

  12. Thanks Sunnyvale for speaking at the voting booth! You’ve set a precedent I look forward to seeing repeated elsewhere, and soon! The power of the vote trumps any individual or group’s anti-common sense gun control drivel. Sorry, just does ;o)

    • Tony Teodoro, perhaps you need to brush up on your constitutional law and on what it means to live in a representative republic. The power of the vote extends only as far as the limits of the Constitution. Because we live in a Constitutional Republic, the individual civil rights and exercise of personal liberty guaranteed in the Constitution are not subject to the whim of the masses and cannot simply be voted away. In fact, the Constitution was written precisely to protect the rights of the individual FROM the will of the masses. In this lies the fundamental difference in philosophy between republicanism (NOT used in the pejorative sense) and democracy (and here, the classical sense and pejorative are not much different).

      • Until and unless any final judicial ruling strikes down this law based on your arguments your personal take on this is just that, subjective, personal…and of no effect whatsoever on the new law of the land in Sunnyvale.

        • This law is blatantly unconstitutional. What is also relevant that the law is ILLEGAL under California Law. The legislature of State of California is the only governmental body that may make gun laws in California. Sunnyvale is breaking the laws of California.

          • It is quite a mystery why the challenges to these ordinances are being pursued by the NRA in Federal rather than State courts. It would seem to be an easy matter to slap them down as violations of State pre-emption laws.

        • Don’t take my word for it. Instead, pick up a copy of The Federalist Papers and see what the Framers had to say on the subject of individual liberties vs. the will of the masses. Or, you could reflect on what Ben Franklin meant when, at the close of the Constitutional convention and in answer to the question of what kind of government the US would have: a Republic or a Monarch, he answered “A Republic if you can keep it.”

          http://www.bartleby.com/73/1593.html

          Those of us who have been sworn to defend the Constitution, who have taken the time to read it and understand what the Framers intended for this great Nation also understand the importance of returning this nation to its roots as a Constitutional Republic.

          But, perhaps you do not believe in the concept of inalienable human rights: rights such as the free practice of religion, freedom of speech, freedom from unlawful search and seizure, the freedom to defend oneself from both harm and tyranny, as guaranteed in the 2nd Amendment. But then, if you don’t believe in these things, why bother living in a nation whose Constitution guarantees them to its citizens?

    • Mob rule used to legalize theft is hardly common sense.

      The looters outnumbered the property owners, and will loot with brute force.

      If anything with over 50% of the vote is brought up, then the 49.9999% will just have to deal with it.

      So, what is not up for a vote in this system of yours?

  13. California is nothing more than a sheeple infested police state. Who cares what they do, they are the joke of the country

  14. “gun nuts and the malevolent NRA”

    I love how this reporter is so unbiased and open-minded. I wonder what the position of this magazine is regarding rights. I am not sure how they feel.

    Good nuetral reporting!

  15. There’s a law banning “sniper rifles”?

    Oh really?

    Anyone else notice that the author made a point of the (purported) race of the “gun nuts”? A dog whistle to folks who insist that the NRA and it’s membership are all secret Klansmen. Of course, I think that might come as a shock to the actual membership since the NRA used to provide guns to Freedmen to fight off Night Riders. It also may come as a shock to folks like Coloin Noir and Chris Cheng, both spokesmen for the NRA.

    But why let facts get in the way of a good story?

    Unfortunately, the Fourth Estate is dead. It was a suicide.

  16. The magazine capacity law violates every one of our human rights. The city wants to create Second Class Citizens; those whose lives are only worth using 10 round magazines, and First Class Citizens; those whose lives are worth more, so they can use standard capacity magazines. Law enforcement officers become First Class Citizens, and the average resident becomes a Second Class Citizen with a life that is not worth as much as the officer’s. This reminds me of the laws created after the Civil War to keep African Americans from exercising their rights. Shame on the city officials and the sponsors of this law. Your actions reveal your bigotry.

  17. Mr Teodoro: You cannot have it both ways. You ask for facts and verified studies, and then you ignore them with an ad hominem attack response..
    There are multiple studies by The FBI, The CDC and published in peer reviewed criminology journals.
    Please get facts before opining.
    Ex police officer, retired Military. MD, MPH.

  18. Most of these laws are created out of ignorance of not knowing any other solution to a problem and taking the easiest route and targeting the minority of gun owners. When in reality it is chipping away at everyone’s liberties weather they exercise them or not.

    What is the goal of the law? Does it accomplish the goal?

    Gun laws are the equivalent of banning certain cars or features to prevent drunk driving deaths. Ban porches, ban any car that goes over 80MPH because speed kills. After all more people are killed in vehicles than by firearms.

  19. “Regardless, the momentum appears to be leaning in favor of gun control.”

    This is what liberals always say about everything they want to do. They give the impression that everyone is already with them and on their side. This is a tactic, a ploy, and not true. Please don’t fall for it and contact your legislators and let them know you oppose. Liberals are masters at controlling the message but not so good at actually getting people to vote

    Be vocal and stand up for your Rights. Do not let liberal democrats convince anyone it is already over and they have won. That is precisely what they want everyone to think. They crave that power to control. They are elitist and believe they should be the ruling class but need the peasants to obey. The only way to stop them is to get active and vote them out of office.

  20. Look guys, this is not very hard to understand. The majority of Americans do not own a gun, do not want to own a gun, and are probably a bit afraid of guns. And every week they hear about another mall or school shooting and they get worried about their children. Since the news never reports on drive-by stabbings, many regular people just want guns to go away. To them, the NRA’s solution of more guns comes across at best as crass commercialization.

    If gun owners want these anti-gun citizens to leave them alone, they are going to have to find away to reduce mass shootings that doesn’t involve arming everyone for more shootings. The proponents of gay marriage have not succeeded because they forced everyone into gay marriage, they succeeded because they convinced other people that gay couples would leave them alone.

    • Actually, most Americans do own at least one firearm. The idea is not to arm everyone; “able-bodied” and “regulated” means only sane, trained adults should bear arms, especially concealed arms. Since the average US law enforcement response time is somewhere around 10-15 minutes, natural and common law indicates that the 2nd amendment protects straights, gays, blacks, whites, Hispanics, men, women and children equally.
      These municipal ordinances are emotional rxns.
      They only leave people vulnerable to common criminals, who by and large will use illegally obtained weapons, maybe from one county over, lol. The real issue in controlling violent crime is putting the bad guys away.
      This was one of the most bias newspaper articles I have ever read.

  21. All we want is common sense laws i mean come on. Laws always prevent crime and will save the world. All you need is half a bullet in a Nerf gun. No one needs nerf guns sheesh they spit out 50 nerfs per half second of a millisecond dont you see how that can be bad only police need nerf guns gosh crazy gun nuts

  22. I read the metro weekly. Its a decent publication (aside from all the sketchy adds in the back) but what I like most about them is its home grown.

    I’ve always noticed that the Metro is a bit liberal but for the most part, they do good work. With that said, the bias in this article was just disgusting.

    This wont last. They tried similar things in Capitola and San Jose and they were eventually dropped. The NRA just illustrated how these things are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced legally. Its not “common sense,” its all driven by fear and ignorance.

  23. Spitaleri never reached out to the ONE business that this would directly impact. Which is US Firearms. The owner would have been more than happy to talk to Spitaleri about his concerns.

  24. Nice, slanted reporting by our intrepid freelance writer. Notice how she cleverly painted for her audience that the opposing side are some kind of racist lunatics?

    Before the event started Mrs. Lieber was specifically asked if the event was a forum or a debate. She replied it was a forum.
    She was then directly informed that forums must follow specific rules:
    a. She must wait until after the speakers were finished to collect question cards from the audience.
    b. Cards must contain questions only-no comments or anything else.
    c. That she must review forum rules with the audience at the onset.
    She was informed that if c. was not followed that those who could not be heard would protest.
    The ‘forum’ was entirely one sided as presented by Lieberman and her supporters. At least a half dozen times those with opposing views demanded a chance to speak.

    This was not a forum as laid out in the rules. Nice to see how official misconduct by those that presented the forum was entirely missed by the author.

  25. No mention of the current Mountain View Mayor who refused membership to ‘Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ based on their less than honest tactics and definition of what an ‘illegal’ gun is?
    Mountain View has had 15 murders since 2000. Lieber did manage to dig up two residents who lost three relatives between them due to gun violence, though.
    “Like Scott, she has come here to advocate for better gun control in her community.” I don’t know about the unnamed advocate but Mattie Scott is from San Francisco and this is not HER community.
    If the Metro paid for this load of whitewash I’d like to know the going rate for fiction writers is these days.

  26. I wonder if this law would of stopped Herbie Mullins from killing all the people he killed?