Santa Clara County lawmakers approve firearm safe storage laws
Supervisor Dave Cortese is pictured in this file photo. Photo by Kyle Martin.

Some elected leaders say gun laws can lead to trouble when equally applied to urban and rural areas – and that’s what Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese is trying to avoid.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved his proposal requiring safe storage for firearms in homes on unincorporated county land. The ordinance, which primarily aims to reduce gun violence among minors, would require the use of trigger locks and storage cabinets when firearms are not in use and not in the owner’s immediate possession.

While this is already a part California state law – as well as Sunnyvale and San Jose’s own city laws – Cortese’s proposal would work to clarify these legal nuances for the county’s 8 percent of residents who live in unincorporated areas.

The veteran lawmaker says this leads the county one step closer to bringing equity to gun storage requirements across Santa Clara County.

“People still consider firearms as tools of the trade on their ranches and rural land,” Cortese told San José Spotlight. “It’s important for us to make sure that we create an ordinance that isn’t so simple that it works in a standard urban environment. 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.”

Despite recent events involving gun violence, Cortese said plans to create the new law span more than a year to the Supervisor’s Community Summit on Firearms Safety after the Parkland, Florida shooting. He said District Attorney Jeff Rosen felt very strongly that the county was remiss in not having a countywide safe storage firearms ordinance.

“It’s not so much that it’s a direct response to Gilroy or mass shootings,” Cortese said. “I think what this does is say, ‘Yes folks, we’re going to start addressing firearms issues more aggressively and methodically, and we’re going to make a difference, but we’re going to look at the whole continuum of issues.’”

This vote came a day after San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo announced his plan to require gun owners in the city to carry mandatory liability insurance for weapons or pay an in-lieu fee. The plan, which would be the first of its kind for any city in the nation, would work to compensate taxpayers for the “public costs of firearm violence.”

While the mayor’s plan wouldn’t cover misconduct by gun owners themselves, it would cover accidental discharge of the gun as well as intentional acts of third parties who steal, borrow or acquire the gun — all of which are issues that could be linked back to safe storage for weapons.

But not all South Bay residents are convinced that tightening gun laws in a state that already has some of the strictest policies across the country will stop gun violence.

“I’m not sure what good a new law is going to do on the books except for making this even more confusing,” local gun owner Dan Roots said Wednesday. “As it is, you got to figure out a book of just California gun laws. If we’re going to expand that book, I’d rather make it easier to understand and consolidate a lot of this stuff. Either make it statewide or, you know, don’t bother with it.”

The county’s attorney and administration will return to the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 10 with more details about how the proposed ordinance would work.

Until then, Cortese hopes to receive public input and questions, which can be sent to himself, the other four supervisors or through the county’s website, regarding the proposal before the September vote. Cortese said he wants to tweak the policy language so that people understand what applies to each different situation – whether they live in rural or urban areas.

Contact Katie Lauer at klauer77@gmail.com or follow @katielauer77 on Twitter.

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