SJ assault weapons proposal getting mixed reviews

January 16, 2013 9:01:13 PM PST
A prominent South Bay attorney has drafted an ordinance with strict controls on assault weapons that he wants Bay Area cities to adopt. But his plan is getting mixed reviews.

It's unusual to have a citizen draft a proposed ordinance that's fully crafted with specific requirements and penalties. It was presented to a City Council committee Wednesday afternoon and would give San Jose sweeping power over assault weapons.

Attorney Van Smith stood before the Rules and Open Government Committee with his two-page proposal. It calls for anyone with an assault weapon to register it with police, pass a background check, and then turn it over to police for safekeeping.

"If we're going to have these assault weapons owned by private citizens, I believe there should be continuing control over those and the police department store those weapons," Smith said.

To retrieve it, an owner would have to indicate why and when it would be returned.

Smith is the long-time deputy city attorney of Santa Clara and has written a few city ordinances during a 50-year career. He's suggesting a punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for not complying with the law.

However, Mayor Chuck Reed isn't sure that Smith's approach is the right way with the president taking on the issue at the federal level.

"A patchwork quilt of individual cities doing different things will not solve the problem, won't deal with it, and we just need to let the government move; fortunately, they're planning to do that," Reed said.

Reed left for the Conference of Mayors meeting and could not attend the committee hearing. Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen chaired in his absence. After Smith's allotted three-minute window to speak, the proposal was deferred until next week when the mayor returns from Washington.

However, there was a strong reaction to the assault ban ordinance proposal by a manager at the San Jose Gun Exchange.

"I don't remember the last time there was a mass shooting in San Jose, California," Tom Woodrum said. "People are going to find ways to kill each other one way or another. By putting larger bans and restrictions on our freedoms that you're just going to start angering people more."

The last time San Jose had a gun control law was 1997, banning small handguns known as "Saturday night specials." However, the law was repealed a few years later because it conflicted with state law.


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