Oakland gives initial approval to ammo law

February 2, 2010 11:06:39 PM PST
Buy some bullets, provide a thumbprint. That is the essence of a new ordinance the city of Oakland is considering to help keep its residents safe.

The law is similar to what is already on the books in Richmond, Berkeley and San Francisco. Oakland wants to be part of an alliance with other cities who have similar gun laws. However, several people at a City Council hearing Tuesday night asked: Why pass an ordinance restricting ammo in a city that does not have a single place to buy ammo?

The proposed firearms ordinance would require ammunition buyers to give a thumbprint and ID, and the police chief would also have the power to approve all new firearms dealers.

The City Council is in favor of restricting the sale of ammunition because Oakland has one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the nation. In just five years, more than 600 people have been murdered, with the majority of victims killed by firearms. But gun proponents argued that the ordinance has little purpose because no one in the city of Oakland sells ammunition.

"We actually don't have a gun dealer in Oakland," said Jeff Israel. "The person in question has an FFL license. However, he is not approved through the department to sell firearms, nor is he approved through city government to sell firearms in the city of Oakland."

"Gangs are the primary problem that you need to be addressing," said Guy Smith. "Regulating ammo sales, regulating dealers is not going to address violence in Oakland."

"We know that people who purchase ammo and guns don't stay in one city, so Berkeley already has this on its book, Richmond has this on their books," said Reygan Harmon. "So we're working in collaboration with other cities."

Gun proponents say that if this ordinance passes at the final reading later this month, it would be a violation of their constitutional rights.

A group called the Calguns Foundation has already written a letter to the mayor and City Council, threatening a lawsuit if it passes. It cited lawsuits across the nation including one in Washington, D.C. that could cost $3.5 million.

The first reading of an ordinance to restrict the sale of ammunition passed unanimously Tuesday, and the City Council will take a final vote on Feb. 16.