The shooting death of Pleasanton native Kate Steinle in San Francisco last year by a gun stolen from a federal ranger's car has given rise to new state legislation and a recently introduced federal bill each aimed at stopping law enforcement firearms from getting into the wrong hands.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Monday legislation from a Bay Area state senator that requires new standards for peace officers when storing their guns in their cars.
U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier
"Locking a firearm when it is not in use should be standard practice," DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said in a statement earlier this month. "Yet, the glaring gap in current policies regarding gun safety has led to federal law enforcement weapons being stolen and subsequently used in crimes."
DeSaulnier, who said his proposal would help close that gap, and State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, whose legislation was signed by the governor Monday, each pointed to the Steinle case and the shooting death of a muralist in Oakland last year among the stolen-gun incidents that motivated their respective bills.
Steinle, 32, was killed on San Francisco's Pier 14 the afternoon of July 1, 2015, by a bullet -- that ricocheted off the ground -- fired from a gun that had been stolen from the car of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger, according to investigators.
A little more than two months later, 27-year-old Antonio Ramos was shot dead as he worked on a mural in Oakland, with the gun stolen from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer's car, according to investigators in that case.
Hill's Senate Bill 869 -- known as "Firearms: securing handguns in vehicles" -- requires all peace officers, as well as any other person, when leaving a handgun in an unattended car to lock the firearm in the trunk or place the gun in a locked container that is not in plain view.
As Hill said when he introduced the legislation, it aims to close a loophole that makes officers "exempt from the safety requirements for guns left in a car that apply to everyone else."
A violation would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The regulation does not apply to a peace officer "during circumstances requiring immediate aid or action that are within the course of his or her official duties."
Meanwhile in Congress, DeSaulnier on Sept. 14 introduced his "Federal Law Enforcement and Public Protection Act," House Resolution 6024.
The freshman congressman's bill would force the leaders of all civilian and military federal law enforcement agencies to create rules requiring their officers to store and safely lock their firearms when not kept in their personal possession.
"My bill would ensure that federal law enforcement officers are properly storing their guns to protect the public and themselves," DeSaulnier said. "This bill would put into place simple reforms to make certain our law enforcement uses best practices that can save lives."
The legislation would put the onus on the officer to store their service weapon by using smart guns and smart locks, trigger locks, safes, gunlock boxes or other means approved by the agency, which would decide the discipline for violations.
The guns could not be kept in personal or patrol vehicles except for temporary storage when in court, when other options aren't available, or if authorized by the agency. If an officer's gun is stolen or lost, the incident would need to be reported to the FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and relevant state and local agencies.
HR 6024 was referred to the House Armed Services Committee.