On Friday my colleague John Petrolino reported on some good news from Imperial City, California, where a proposed moratorium on gun shops appears to be off the table and a firearms retailer should soon be able to open her doors to customers. Unfortunately, another southern California community is now adopting its own strategy to keep gun shops out of town.
Monterey Park, California was in the headlines back in January when a man opened fire at a Chinese New Year celebration at a local dance facility, killing 11 people. Now the town is making news again with council members approving an ordinance prohibiting gun sales from taking place within 1,000 feet of “sensitive receptors” like schools and private dwellings; placing most of the community off-limits to lawful firearm transfers.
“I know that as a parent and as a teacher in this community, I think that it is very important to keep our families and our residencies and also our schools safe,” said Mayor Jose Sanchez before casting his vote. “This is one way, I think, for us to try to send a message to not just our community but to our nation as a whole of the necessary measures that we need when it comes to gun control.
The only message that Monterey Park is sending is that its leaders are eager and willing to violate the fundamental civil rights of its residents by making it harder for them to lawfully purchase and possess a firearm. Maybe a near-total prohibition on gun sales is the “necessary measure” that Sanchez thinks is needed, but in taking this step the mayor and city council are basically acknowledging that none of California’s current restrictions, including “universal” background checks and a 10-day waiting period on all gun transfers, are keeping criminals away from guns.
Not that the new ordinance is going to stop those criminals either. They’ll continue to get ahold of guns through the same illicit means they always have; theft, straw purchases, black market sales, and even crafting their own. And for now, at least, a few retailers already operating inside the city limits will still be allowed to conduct business, though it sounds like there are more restrictions on the horizon.
Locally, there are a few retailers already in the area considered not compliant with these 1,000-foot buffer zones, but their existence before the ordinance is considered “legal non-conforming” and are allowed to remain. Neither EuroArms on West Valley Boulevard nor Caps Armory on Monterey Pass Road elected to comment. A call to Big 5 on South Atlantic Boulevard corporate office had not been returned.
For some council members, the new ordinance, months in the making, was only the first step.
Councilmember Thomas Wong proposed an effort to collaborate countywide to expand the buffer zone restrictions to more cities.
“Maybe we can look at efforts to encourage (Los Angeles) to pass it and share this ordinance language and the research with our neighboring cities to encourage them to adopt similar restrictions in their own communities, so that a store doesn’t open up just outside of our borders that otherwise would not be allowed to open up,” he said.
Clearly Wong isn’t just trying to limit gun stores from operating in areas of Monterey Park zoned for commercial use. If he’s talking about getting other communities in Los Angeles County to put similar restrictions in place, he’s hoping to turn the entirety of L.A. County into a “health protection zone” where sales can be banned outright. As it is, L.A. County supervisors have imposed a ban on gun stores in unincorporated areas of the county located within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, parks, and other FFLs, so Wong is well on his way to getting his wish.
Will this make Monterey Park free of guns or crime? Absolutely not. Chicago and Washington, D.C. are just two examples of major metropolitan areas that have no retail gun stores inside their city limits and more than their share of violent crimes, and if L.A. County officials ever decided to do the same I don’t think the results would be any different.
The senseless murders in Monterey Park were horrifying, but responding to this terrible crime by making it harder for responsible residents to exercise their fundamental right to armed self-defense is an awful approach. Not only does this move violate the fundamental civil liberties of those who live there, but in doing so it makes the community a more inviting target in the future for those violent criminals who prefer their victims be unarmed and defenseless.