REDWOOD CITY (BCN) – The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an ordinance for the first time that will update firearms laws for the first time in 20 years with stricter licensing and safety restrictions in the county’s unincorporated areas.

The board of directors unanimously approved the regulation, which will be sent back to the regulatory authorities for second reading and final approval. The amended regulation requires arms dealers to obtain a local license from the district manager and to adhere to strict security measures on their shop front.

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Supervisor Dave Pine, who co-sponsored the article with Supervisor Don Horsley, said the recent mass shootings in San Jose have underscored the need for gun safety.

On May 26, an employee of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority shot and killed nine people before killing himself in the Guadalupe city railway station.

“We don’t have dealerships in unincorporated areas today, but this sets the rules and standards for anyone who might want to open a business in the future,” said Pine. “It is important to regulate these arms dealers comprehensively to keep everyone safe and to ensure that arms don’t fall into the wrong hands.”

Following the VTA mass shootings, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo reintroduced his proposal for compulsory gun owner insurance and an annual gun fee, among other provisions.

The regulation would only come into force 30 days after approval at second reading. While the ordinance would only apply to unincorporated areas, it could serve as a model for cities, Pine said.

State law already requires that arms dealers hold state and federal licenses. In addition to state requirements, local ordinance would require dealers to acquire a local license, undergo a background check, and submit inventory reports to the district manager.

However, state law does not include safety measures like those put in place in the San Mateo County Ordinance. The updated regulation requires arms dealers to secure weapons either in a fireproof safe or with steel bars or cables. They must also have steel bars over the windows, alarm systems, video surveillance and liability insurance.

Deputy County Counsel Lauren Carroll said the increased security would help prevent things like “smash and grab” thefts, where someone breaks the windows of a store and takes as much as they can carry before escaping.

The regulation also restricts where arms sales can take place. The sale must be a certain distance from homes, schools, religious institutions, playgrounds and other places where children can be found.

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Allison Anderman, senior counsel at Giffords Law Center for Gun Violence Prevention, said her organization supported the ordinance because federal and state agencies are unable to fully oversee arms dealers.

“Perhaps most importantly, by passing this ordinance, the county itself will take control of a non-compliant merchant’s revocation of a license,” Anderman said. “Without this regulation, it would be very difficult for a jurisdiction to shut down an illegal arms dealer, as the ATF (the Federal Office for Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) rarely withdraws licenses.”

The public prosecutor’s office also supported the legislative proposals.

Assistant District Attorney Sean Gallagher, who represented District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe at the board meeting, said her office upheld the law as “common sense and prudent steps” to keep firearms off the streets.

Gallagher said there were 11 murders in San Mateo County in 2021, eight of which were by firearms.

He said her office will also work with public safety partners to expand gun violence injunctions, which allow someone to petition the court to prohibit another person from possessing firearms or ammunition if that person could use a weapon to hurt yourself or others.

Representatives of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense branch in America, along with other members of the public, expressed their support for the gun laws.

Horsley, the manager who co-sponsored the ordinance, said there may be people with gun licenses who could sell out of a house. The regulation would prevent this.

A staff report with further information on the regulation is available online.

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