want to sound glib, because the rash of violence that has scarred
the city -- and sent the number of homicides in 2005 to 96 --
no doubt contributed to the passage of the gun-ban measure, Proposition
In a brief
supporting the measure, which the NRA is fighting in the courts,
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera cited the tragic deaths
of three innocent San Franciscans, including Deanne Bradford,
a mother of six who was shot dead by her husband with a "legally
owned handgun." The husband also killed himself.
also argued that city voters have a right to establish city gun
laws and that their "decision to forgo handgun possession
by city residents is of no significant concern to anyone outside
San Francisco, and is a proper exercise of the city's home-rule
power." Also, the handgun ban exempts police, military and
I have a
lot of sympathy with the home-rule argument, but it won't fly
here. For one thing: Even supporters of the handgun ban expect
it to fail in court. "It clearly will be thrown out,"
Mayor Gavin Newsom told The San Francisco Chronicle before
the election. He added he would vote for the measure, but: "I'm
having a difficult time with it, and that's my one caveat. ...
It's really a public-opinion poll, at the end of the day.''
the law interferes with an individual's right to self-defense,
which is especially bad for people who live not in gated communities,
but high-crime areas.
issue: While City Hall hasn't set what the sentence for violations
of the law might be, whatever it is, the handgun ban likely will
hurt law-abiding citizens more than criminals.
As if this
city needs proof that city criminals don't care about gun laws,
consider the AK-47 used to kill Officer Isaac Espinoza in 2004.
At the time, the AK-47 was illegal under the federal assault-weapon
ban, yet it was the "gun of choice" for gang-bangers.
It's not as if they had no access to legal guns -- and still the
ban meant nothing to them.
The NRA's Chris W. Cox argued that Proposition H stands to "send
a very clear message to the criminal element in San Francisco,
that lawful residents in San Francisco are unarmed and unable
to protect themselves from criminal attack." (I should note
that residents will be able to keep an existing rifle in their
homes, even if the entire law is upheld. That said, the law requires
residents to surrender their handguns to police by April 1 and
provides no compensation in return.)
interesting statistic, compiled by the SFPD and reported in The
Chronicle last month: Of the 94 homicides recorded in the city
through Dec. 12, no arrests had been made for 74 of those murders.
Only eight cases have resulted in prosecutions.
if gang members think they can kill without getting caught, I
don't think a handgun ban is going to crimp their style.
that witnesses often are reluctant to testify. This suggests it
would make more sense to put the resources used to defend Proposition
H -- which by the mayor's own admission is a very expensive public-opinion
poll -- into witness protection and investigative programs.
is supposed to stand for choice. This is supposed to be a town
where tolerant individuals don't pass laws that, in essence, say:
If I don't do it, you shouldn't, either; if you do, you go to
jail. Yet the gun ban ends choice -- for the law-abiding, at least.