It’s late at night. You got home really late and crashed without doing most of your nightly routine, so you’re out cold. The shattering of glass rips you from your slumber. You hear the back door opening–you know it’s locked because it’s always locked. You checked before you left for the night and didn’t open it when you got home.
Someone is in your home.
Adrenaline is pumping through your veins, part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, but it’s causing you problems now. You can’t get your gun safe open. You had your handgun locked up because your town has a mandatory storage law, but now you need it and it’s taking too long to get it.
As you’re fumbling with the key, the bedroom door opens. Your time is up.
This is what a lot of people fear, and in a lot of towns, it’s the potential reality for any number of people. After all, mandatory storage laws are a thing. Now, Palo Alto, California is considering adding one of its own.
SAFETY NET … Eight months after two Palo Alto City Council members proposed adopting a “safe storage” law for firearms, the council is preparing to do just that. Responding to a memo that council member Alison Cormack and then-Mayor Adrian Fine issued in December 2020, the council is scheduled to adopt on Aug. 30 an ordinance that would require any firearm that is stored in a residence to be secured with a trigger lock or in a locked container, when not on one’s person.
In proposing the new requirement, Cormack and Fine’s memo noted that 2020 had seen a record-setting number of firearms purchases, many of them to first-time owners who may not be familiar with proper safety and storage practices. “A safe requirement can help prevent the theft of firearms and may reassure and protect our public safety personnel,” the memo stated.
Palo Alto isn’t the only city to consider and, in some cases, adopt gun-safety measures. Sunnyvale has recently raised the minimum age for purchasing a semi-automatic rifle to 21, while Redwood City approved an ordinance mandating safe storage, with a violation classified as a misdemeanor. The Palo Alto ordinance would similarly set a maximum penalty for violations at $1,000 and six months of imprisonment.
A memo from City Attorney Molly Stump’s office notes that the ordinance is “not intended to criticize firearm owners nor abridge the rights protected by the Constitution.” “This sort of safe storage law constitutionally balances individuals’ rights with the City’s interest in reducing gun-related injuries,” the memo from Stump’s office states. “By protecting firearms from theft and misappropriation, this ordinance is a common-sense measure that can save lives and prevent injuries in Palo Alto.”
I get the argument, but I don’t believe that’s the motivating factor for an instant.
Mandatory storage laws–I refuse to call them “safe storage” laws because there’s nothing safe about them–are nothing more than an attempt to mandate something without regard for someone’s specific situation.
Especially when you invoke the number of purchases as somehow being a justification for passing such a law.
Such laws don’t actually prevent gun thefts. What they do, though, is make it less likely someone will report a firearm stolen. It also makes it more difficult for poorer members of the community to lawfully own a firearm.
But lawmakers in anti-Second Amendment strongholds like California often care little about such things. They’re OK with guns being impossible for anyone to obtain.