Santa Monica: the anti-Second Amendment Sanctuary?

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

If the city council in Santa Monica could get away with ordering the only gun store in town to close its doors without inviting a lawsuit, I’m sure council members would take that step. Instead, the council is set to impose several new restrictions on the lone gun shop that would almost certainly have the same effect; forcing the shop to shut down because the new mandates will make it untenable to remain open for business as usual.

Just how bad are we talking about? Well, have you ever heard of a gun store that’s not allowed to display firearms for sale? Under the measures up for debate in Santa Monica, the city’s only gun shop may soon have to keep most of its inventory behind closed doors.

On request of Councilmembers Caroline Torosis, Jesse Zwick, and Mayor Gleam Davis, the Council directed staff to restrict the sale of guns and establish new restrictions on ownership at their June 13 meeting.

The Big 5 Sporting Goods on Wilshire Blvd is the only location in Santa Monica that sells guns. During the riots in 2020, Big 5 was included in the stores that were looted with several guns stolen and Councilmembers said that threat was part of their motivation for the discussion. The sporting goods store is currently grandfathered, meaning the city cannot take away their right to sell guns as it is a property right without some kind of compensation but City Attorney Doug Sloan said the City could impose additional conditions of sale.

“For example, they would not be able to have them on display, they would need to be in a locked room or container approved by the police department and only brought out on request,” he said.

This would be a nightmare to comply with from the business side of things, and from a customer’s perspective it makes no sense whatsoever. What about those customers who aren’t quite sure what it is they’re looking for? You would literally be unable to browse the selection available for sale because the city doesn’t want residents to even look at a gun, and to what end?

Neighboring city councils such as Culver City, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach, and West Hollywood have all implemented distance separation ordinances limiting how close guns can be sold and distributed to sensitive receptors like schools and other locations prone to mass shootings. Councilmembers also said San Jose has made great strides in mandating gun owners to carry liability insurance, as well as taxing them an annual fee. Those fees are levied and filtered into community based programs combating gun violence.

“The reason we put this forward is to create greater transparency, and safeguards, checks and balances here to make sure that we’re making it as difficult as possible for these to get in the hands of people that might do something…” said Torosis.

Do something like exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Remember, every gun sale at Big 5 Sporting Goods in Santa Monica already has to undergo the same background check and 10-day waiting period as every other retail sale of a firearm in the state of California. This isn’t about keeping criminals away from guns. It’s about keeping residents away from their rights. If the proposed restrictions on gun sales aren’t enough to convince you, how about the city’s new fees for concealed carry applicants?

Prior to March 1, 2017, SMPD handled all requests from Santa Monica residents for a permit to carry a concealed gun. After this date however, policy was changed so that all requests were referred to the LASD, but changes to the law created a surge in applications that has exceeded the capacity of the Sheriff’s Department and SMPD was forced to take over applications again this year.

The city will use a third party service to streamline the application process with a fee of $617 for new applicants. Of that, $398 for new applications and $348 for renewals would go to the vendor. These costs do not include other fees for fingerprinting, psychological evaluation and a range safety course. The additional $219 would cover mounting administrative and processing costs.

Almost $850 in fees and costs just to apply for a concealed carry license. That’s about $725 more than what it cost me to get my Virginia carry license, which included a $50 check to my local county clerk and $89 for my training course. Think that might have a chilling effect on the number of Santa Monica residents exercising their right to bear arms in self-defense in public? Of course it will. That’s the entire point of jacking up the fees as well as imposing new mandates on Big 5 Sporting Goods; to make it so difficult to legally purchase, possess, and carry a firearm a gun that most residents will decide its not worth the risk or the money.

Imagine a book store that wasn’t allowed to display books, or a hardware store that kept every item locked away from the public. How long would those stores stay in business? A few months? A few weeks? It’s hard to imagine that Big 5 Sporting Goods’ Santa Monica location would fare any better if it’s prohibited from putting guns for sale behind the counter where customers can see them.

We write quite a bit here about Second Amendment Sanctuaries, but Santa Monica is an example of an anti-2A “sanctuary”; one that offers no quarter to those trying to exercise their fundamental right to keep and bear arms and is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to keep those rights under wraps. It will be a couple of months before the City Attorney’s office presents a draft ordinance to the city council for its consideration, but gun owners in the city should be weighing in now with their opposition. Not only are their rights likely to be infringed upon, but their own tax dollars will be wasted trying to defend these ridiculous rules during the inevitable legal challenges to come.