DUBLIN — Gun owners in Dublin will soon be required to take additional measures to secure firearms inside their homes under a new city ordinance that seeks to curb access to firearms and reduce the risk of unintentional shootings and firearm suicides.
The Dublin City Council unanimously approved the safe storage firearms ordinance on Dec. 1. It requires unattended firearms in Dublin homes to be secured with a state-approved trigger lock engaged or kept within a gun safe or locked container. A violation of the ordinance constitutes a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The ordinance takes effect Jan. 14.
“This ordinance will state clearly to our community that we embrace a culture of gun safety,” Vice Mayor Shawn Kumagai said.
The ordinance was introduced at his request, following an October presentation by the Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence.
The city council also directed city staff to explore opportunities to obtain grant funding to purchase gun locks that could be offered to Dublin residents without charge, similar to one administered by the Fremont Police Department.
The ordinance comes at a time of record gun sales, motivated by people wanting to protect themselves and their families in the wake of the pandemic and fears of social unrest.
In total, the Giffords Law Center estimates 17.4 million guns were sold nationwide between March and November 2020 — 81% more than the number of estimated guns sold over the same period last year, based on statistics from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Existing state law requires gun owners to lock or safely store their firearms when they know children will be present, or if their household includes a person with a criminal record who is prohibited from owning a gun. The Dublin ordinance essentially extends this law to require the safe storage of guns to all households, City Manager Linda Smith said.
Firearms purchased in California also must be accompanied with an approved firearms safety device, such as a trigger lock, or proof that the purchaser owns a gun safe or trigger lock that will work with the gun. Smith noted that the law does not require its use outside situations with children or people with criminal convictions present.
City Councilwoman Jean Josey called the ordinance a common sense preventative measure that does not unreasonably burden the rights of lawful gun owners.
Research from JAMA Pediatrics found that the safe storage of firearms can reduce firearm suicide and unintentional firearm fatalities among youth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that for individuals who choose to keep guns in the home, the firearms should be kept unloaded and locked in a separate location from ammunition.
“We know that children who can have easy access to guns, who are going through mental health crises, are at a much higher risk of suicide than children who are at homes with properly stored firearms,” Josey said. “We also know that we are in the middle of a pandemic that is disproportionately hitting the mental health of our youth.”
The Dublin ordinance cited several studies that show the unsafe storage of guns is a public health and safety threat. Safe storage best practices include locking guns in a secure place such as a gun safe or cabinet or using safety devices such as trigger or cable locks, and these are supported by a variety of organizations. According to a study published in the Journal of Public Health in 2018, an estimated 46% of gun owners reported safely storing all of their guns.
The ordinance also gives examples of affordable lockboxes and biometric safes that allow an owner to quickly and easily retrieve a weapon in the dark in seconds.
Mayor Melissa Hernandez, who asked for consideration of a free gun lock program, recalled losing a friend in the eighth grade to a tragic gun accident.
“It’s not about taking gun rights away from people at all, whatsoever,” she said. “It’s about educating. It’s about making sure that we’re doing our part by having awareness out there.”