San Francisco Proposes Handgun Ban

City residents will vote next year on a proposed weapons ban that would deny handguns (search) to everyone except law enforcement officers, members of the military and security guards.

If passed next November, residents would have 90 days to give up firearms they keep in their homes or businesses. The proposal was immediately dismissed as illegal by a gun owners group.

The measure — submitted Tuesday to the Department of Elections by some city supervisors — would also prohibit the sale, manufacturing or distribution of handguns, and the transfer of gun licenses, according to Bill Barnes, an aide to Supervisor Chris Daly.

Firearms would be allowed only for police officers, security guards, members of the military, and anyone else "actually employed and engaged in protecting and preserving property or life within the scope of his or her employment," according to the measure.

Barnes said Wednesday the initiative is a response to the rising homicide rate and other social ills, noting: "We think there is a wide benefit to limiting the number of guns in the city."

Gun Owners of California (search), a Sacramento-based lobbying group, quickly called the ban illegal. Sam Paredes, the group's executive director, said state law bars local governments from usurping the state's authority to regulate firearms.

"The amazing thing is they are going to turn San Francisco into ground zero for every criminal who wants to profit at their chosen profession," Paredes said.

How many residents would be affected by the ban is unclear, since California does not require residents to register handguns that are kept in a private residence of business.

Washington, D.C., is the only major American city that currently bans handgun possession by private citizens. Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association (search), said San Francisco would be remiss to use that city as a model.

"If gun control worked, Washington, D.C., would be the beacon. However, it's the murder capital of the United States," he said.

In San Francisco, five of the 11-member Board of Supervisors submitted the measure directly to the Department of Elections — one more than the minimum needed to get the measure on the ballot without signatures from registered voters.

The city's voters have frequently championed liberal causes. In the last election, a nonbinding ballot measure to condemn the war in Iraq and immediately pull out U.S. troops immediately passed with ease.

If approved, the weapons ban would take effect in January 2006.