SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation Tuesday requiring strict lock-up of firearms in vehicles parked in San Francisco.
The ordinance came in response to a number of high-profile shootings in San Francisco last year, including the death of a young woman shot in July with a gun stolen from a federal agent's car. The killing of 32-year-old Kate Steinle sparked a national debate over immigration because the shooter was a Mexican national released from a city jail despite federal requests to detain him for deportation.
In October, prosecutors say a trio of homeless drifters stole a gun from a civilian's parked car in San Francisco and used it to kill a backpacker and a tantric yoga instructor.
And on Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that three handguns and an agent's badge were stolen earlier that day from a locked vehicle in the San Francisco Bay Area.
San Francisco isn't the first to trot out such legislation. Oakland city officials approved a vehicle lock-up regulation in January, and a state bill is pending.
Supervisor David Campos, who introduced the proposal, said the ordinance puts gun owners on notice that they must ensure the security of their firearm.
"I'm proud that here in San Francisco, once again, on the very important issue of guns, we continue to lead the way," he said.
Mark Selmi, a spokesman for a law firm that represents the California Rifle & Pistol Association, has said the proposed restriction is unfair to gun owners.
"Criminalizing the behavior of lawful gun owners for the actions of violent criminals has never been an effective means for reducing crime," he said.
Vehicle break-ins have plagued San Francisco, with roughly 26,500 burgled autos reported in 2015. That's up from about 19,800 vehicles broken into in 2014. San Francisco police also say that as of November 2015, 57 firearms had been stolen from vehicles last year.
The legislation calls for anyone leaving an unattended vehicle in San Francisco to lock up firearms in a trunk that can't be opened from the main body of the vehicle, or inside a box permanently attached to the vehicle.
If the vehicle lacks a trunk, the locked box should be under a seat or otherwise hidden from view. A violation would be a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and six months in jail.
The regulation would not apply to San Francisco police officers and sheriff's deputies provided the departments have policies regulating the storage of firearms for on-duty and off-duty officers. Representatives for the departments say regulations are in place, or soon will be.
The regulation is limited in that it would not apply to on-duty officers from outside jurisdictions, including municipal, federal and military personnel.
The gun used to kill Steinle, for example, was stolen from the vehicle of an agent with the federal Bureau of Land Management.
The shooter, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. He says he found the gun and that it went off accidentally.