The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved plans to study a possible ban on gun sales at the county fairgrounds and other county-owned sites.
Supervisor Ken Yeager's motion directs the county counsel to draft an ordinance prohibiting the possession or sale of firearms on property owned or leased by the county, as well as to report to the board about other options for improving public safety by reducing gun violence.
The proposal stemmed from the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, which took the lives of 17 high school students and faculty members.
"Longtime Santa Clara County residents may remember how close we came to our own mass shooting in January 2001 at De Anza College," Yeager said in a statement. "We can't eliminate the threat of mass shootings, but we have a responsibility to do everything we can to reduce the risk of them."
Yeager, who describes himself as an advocate for reasonable gun control, has said that allowing firearms to be sold at the fairgrounds is contrary to the county's missions of promoting the health and well-being of residents.
Community members spoke at Tuesday's meeting to explain their displeasure or appreciation for Yeager's motion.
A few gun rights advocates said they worried about the impacts that prohibiting the possession or sale of firearms on county property may have on the county-owned Field Sports Park gun range in San Jose.
Dave Truslow of the group Pink Pistols said the proposed ban could "be the Trojan horse of one of Santa Clara County's most popular facilities."
On the contrary, other residents thanked the county leaders for looking into the issue.
Novia Dattatri, Hiwad Haiter and Daniel Voskoboynik, Prospect High School seniors and organizers of the San Jose-area March For Our Lives event, spoke in favor of Yeager's proposal, saying it combats the glamorization of firearms in advertisements for gun shows and could help keep guns out of public spaces like schools.
"The gun shows that take place in our county biannually embody the idea that combating gun violence is not a priority to our local government," Haiter said. "Our public spaces and the way we elect to use them reflect the community's values. Using our marquee fairgrounds for shows centered around arms does not make me feel any safer in a time of rampant gun violence."
Supervisor Cindy Chavez noted her support for the proposal, but said the county should be careful not to negatively impact groups and sites that do ensure gun safety.
"When I think about the gun range, I think that's the place where people actually learn how to use a firearm safely," she said.
Supervisor Joe Simitian addressed the worry that he had heard come out of the mouths of some constituents: the actual impact that local government can have on limiting gun violence in comparison to the federal government.
"The fact that others need to step up as well does not in any way suggest that we do not have a role to play," Simitian said. "It reminds me of the old adage, 'Better to light one candle than curse the darkness.' I think this is one of those times."
The information that comes from the county counsel as a result of the motion will help initiate dialogue at Supervisor Dave Cortese's summit on gun violence approved last week. Cortese said the summit is expected to happen in the third week of April.