News

County supervisors call for federal assault weapons ban

Simitian and Ellenberg: Gun restrictions a 'moral imperative' in the face of tragedy

Two Santa Clara County supervisors are calling for a nationwide ban on assault weapons, calling it a common-sense action to curb gun violence in the wake of three deadly shootings, including one that killed three people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last month.

Board President Joe Simitian and Supervisor Susan Ellenberg announced Friday that they are co-sponsoring a resolution, to be voted on at the Aug. 13 board meeting, urging Congress to pass legislation banning assault weapons commonly used in mass shootings. The federal ban would target guns used in the six deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. over the last decade, weapons used to kill more than 200 people and injure nearly 1,000, according to a joint statement by the supervisors.

The call to action comes two weeks after a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three people and injuring 13. Later that week, another gunman shot and killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, followed by a third shooting the next day in Dayton, Ohio that left 10 people dead including the alleged shooter.

"Despite the thousands of miles that separated these tragic events, they are united by one simple, undeniable fact: an assault weapon enabled and exacerbated the violence that stole so many lives," the supervisors said in the statement.

Simitian and Ellenberg argue that the ban is necessary after the tragedy in Gilroy. Although California has restrictive gun laws banning the sale and ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, the perpetrator in Gilroy reported purchased his gun legally in Nevada. The spillover across state lines prompts a need for federal action, they said.

"We in California live in a state with some of the most rigorous firearms laws anywhere in the nation, and we are safer because of it," according to the statement. "But as the tragedy in Gilroy reminds us, our safety extends only as far as our state's borders when an individual can simply travel to Nevada ... and buy a weapon of this type."

Though the majority of gun deaths are inflicted by handguns used in suicide, supervisors say the high number of mass shootings in the U.S. are enabled by guns that are designed to "inflict harm as quickly and efficiently as possible," at a scale one might expect from a warzone.

"In the face of evidence like this, a federal assault weapons ban is more than common sense. It is a moral imperative," the supervisors said.

Action at the federal level this year includes an assault weapons ban introduced by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in January. In February, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring universal background checks on gun sales, though it's unclear whether the Republican majority in the Senate will support the bill.

The statement released Friday does not delve into details on precisely what the federal legislation should prohibit, though it does credit the now-expired federal assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 for reducing the probability of mass shooting fatalities. This is likely in reference to a 2019 study reviewing mass shooting data, though previous studies concluded no significant impacts on homicide rates.

An anonymous source told the San Francisco Chronicle that the gun used in the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting was a WASR-10 semiautomatic rifle, which is legal to purchase in Nevada but illegal to bring to California. Law enforcement officials shortly after the shooting described it as an AK-47-style semiautomatic rifle.

Along with the resolution, Simitian and Ellenberg are hoping to encourage cities within Santa Clara County to sign onto the resolution, which would be sent to a member of Congress who represents county residents.

The resolution will be considered after the supervisors adjourn early in the Aug. 13 meeting to memorialize the three victims killed in Gilroy. Flags at all county facilities have been flown at half-staff since July 29 and will be raised once the board convenes on Tuesday.

Related content:

Bay Area mayors call for senate action on gun safety laws

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Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Jane Gill
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 11, 2019 at 8:13 am

After those four fatal stabbings recently in SoCal, we should ban knives as well.

Seriously, if there is a major earthquake followed by looters, responsible, law-abiding property owners should have the means to be able to protect their homes.


19 people like this
Posted by well regulated militia
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 11, 2019 at 8:21 am

> After those four fatal stabbings recently in SoCal, we should ban knives as well.

Such a ridiculous statement, a true sign of a weak argument for supporting mass shootings.

Jane: how many Americans are killed by knives every year?

Jane: how many mass shooting in Europe over the last 20 years? 30 years? 40 years?

"Seriously" you're down to 'earthquakes' as your last line of defense for having a weapon in the home that is 11 times more likely to harm someone you love than be used in self defense?


10 people like this
Posted by Short barreled guns
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2019 at 8:52 am

I am amazed by the number of folks who grab their gun to fulfill some emotional shortcoming. Their weak argument is the telltale sign.

Get a dog.


23 people like this
Posted by Ban All Assault Weapons
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 11, 2019 at 11:39 am

No one should have access to assault weapons...including the trigger-happy police.


9 people like this
Posted by Criminals always get weapons
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2019 at 12:27 pm

Criminals - murderers - are not going to obey gun laws. They can always get weapons - assault rifles among them. And if some bad guys have big guns, it is understandable that some good guys and gals might want big guns for protection.
A federal ban on new sales won't help much. The Gilroy shooter would have stolen or purchased his guns illegally. In any event, an assault weapons ban (and confiscation) is not likely to become law. What else do you propose? Using Gilroy as the example, what else could have been done to forestall that attack and/or those deaths and injuries?


11 people like this
Posted by Burgie Burgess
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 11, 2019 at 2:39 pm

Criminals always get weapons.

No, they don't. At least in countries that control guns, they do not.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2019 at 2:49 pm

What bothers me most, is irresponsible dog owners who put the dog poop in other peoples trash cans. We need tighter controls on dogs and respect for the sanctity of our trash cans


11 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2019 at 2:55 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

No one should have access to battlefield weapons, including police. Once this is legislated, possession of a high capacity assault weapon should be a serious felony punishable by a minimum of 20 years in prison. Those who own them would be required to sell them back. This would not solve this existential crisis, but would go a long way toward elevating it. The Framers never intended to facilitate mass muders, they were worried about a tyranny. Our society will not survive until we completely disallow assault weapons and implement a thorough background check that should involve psychiatric examination of suspect applicants.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2019 at 4:45 pm

What should be remembered about the latest atrocities is that the weapons were purchased legally! These were not hardened criminals but people who could have easily been our neighbor, living in our neighborhood, going to our schools, mixing in our restaurants, big box stores and grocery stores.

I think it is important to distinguish between criminals who acquire weapons illegally and use them in pursuit of their crimes. And those who legally purchase weapons to cause mayhem. Yes gun crime, gang crime, is bad. But havoc and mayhem caused by legally obtained guns to people without criminal histories and without apparent mental health issues have become a problem. The mother of one of the gunmen who legally obtained his weapon is reported to have said that she reported her son to the authorities saying that she didn't think he was mature enough to own a weapon. This was the gunman's mother reporting her son, probably not an easy thing for a mother to do. But, it seems the authorities took no notice of her warning.

Every gun has the potential to be used to cause harm. It may be accidental (someone cleaning the gun accidentally shooting himself in the foot), it may be neglect (a weapon not properly locked away just for a short time in an unusual circumstance and found by a child), it may be mistaken (a homeowner shooting a family member mistaking for an intruder), a family argument gone wrong, a weapon found by a family member cleaning out the home of a deceased parent, or a plethora of other scenarios.

Every time a gun is in a home it is a weapon waiting to be used. How that weapon is used varies. But in my mind the potential for it being used to cause bodily harm to someone who does not deserve it is much more likely than it being used to defend against an invading army or an unjust government.


5 people like this
Posted by Military & Warfare To Blame
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 11, 2019 at 5:15 pm

It is amazing how much energy, expense & design goes into creating modern weaponry whose sole purpose is to perfect ways of killing & maiming people.

This goes back a long ways...from the Model 73 Winchester & the Gatling Gun along with the single action Army Colt revolver which provided a faster method of shooting Native Americans (the Navy Colt was a double action).

Add to this list the now classic Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol which was designed during the early 1900s to disable/kill rebellious Phillipino tribesmen immediately following the Spanish American War.

So naturally those with the aspirations & inclination to either intimidate or kill others will want the latest in high-tech automatic weaponry.

Even civilians, outlaws & the police.

Perhaps the key is to outlaw the use & ownership of these kinds of weapons unless one is in the US military.

So if someone wants to 'get-off' firing multi-rounds...enlist.

"Uncle Sam Wants You."




3 people like this
Posted by well regulated militia
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 11, 2019 at 6:02 pm

> What should be remembered about the latest atrocities is that the weapons were...

Someone in another thread said it:

What should be remembered about the latest atrocities is that the weapons were GUNS.

Fix that. Spend a trillion on mental health care as well, sure. But fix the gun issue first.

Average of 32,000 gun deaths a year, and tens of thousands of injuries - each tears a family apart.


10 people like this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 11, 2019 at 8:55 pm

About 45 years ago, I walked into a Mt View store and left with what is now called an assault weapon. At that time, neither I or anyone else seemed to have evil intentions. So what has changed?

My old person perspective is that there has been a moral decay possibly catalyzed by the drug culture. Additionally, electronic communication may enable and amplify the small fraction of the crazy population among us.

It also doesn't help that we don't have county leaders capable of analyzing complex problems and offering real solutions.

The real and "harder" question is what do we do with people who demonstrate
a credible threat to others? ... protecting their rights and our lives.


6 people like this
Posted by Burgie Burgess
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 11, 2019 at 9:28 pm

"protecting their lives"

Canard.

a gun in the home is 11 times more likely to harm a loved one than be used in self-defense.

It's just an emotional crutch.


11 people like this
Posted by Ban is no solution
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2019 at 8:10 am

Copied from another thread and spot on:
When has any gun-control law ever been proven to be a significant deterrent to mass murderers and criminals?

Not to mention the utter failure of drug-control laws for the exact same reason.

Only one gun-control law, if it were actually enforced, has shown significant benefit in deterring typical criminals from using firearms in violent crimes. The rarely enforced portion of the Gun-Control-Act of 1968 that mad it illegal for known criminals and court adjudicated mentally ill from possessing any type of firearms. The law, if consistently enforced, has shown to substantially reduce the criminal mis-use of firearms.

According to the Obama administration, the background check system has prevented millions of known criminals from completing firearms transactions. Each of those examples is a FEDERAL FELONY which carries a federal sentence of 5-15 years. A felon trying to buy a firearm is also a state felony in every state and also carries serious jail time.

However, according to the Obama administration, only a few dozen felons were even arrested and only some of those were prosecuted for that new felony. The situation in the states varies widely.

California rarely bothers to prosecute known felons for attempting to buy a firearm, some other states are really serious about arresting and prosecuting, but even the most aggressive states only arrest a small fraction of the cases where the background check system caught a felon trying to buy a firearm.

"And how often have their guns been used in crimes such as domestic violence, suicide or been stolen and used in other crimes?"

According to the official statistics from the Obama Administration, lawful civilian use of a firearm for defensive purposes out numbers the criminal mis-use of firearms by at least an order of magnitude. And the FBI determined that lawfully armed civilians lawfully kill about the same number of violent criminals as police do for defensive purposes.

Of course, these conclusions were not exactly what the Obama administration expected to be discovered when they ordered the federal examination of the question and they were not at all happy, but the facts don't care who likes them or who's political agenda is helped or hurt by the facts.

Gun-control laws targeting law-abiding citizens have no value in reducing violent crime or the criminal mis-use of firearms. Only laws targeting the criminals has shown to be of real value.


12 people like this
Posted by Lauren
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 12, 2019 at 8:21 am

Better background checks. Problem solved. Quick and easy solution that we have not tried harder on. I am a 41yr old women that owns two hand guns and a Rifle. I have proper training and store my weapons in a safe place. Its the person not the gun. We are quick to not keep the person accountable for their actions.


1 person likes this
Posted by Burgie Burgess
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 12, 2019 at 8:50 am

> Copied from another thread and spot on:
> When has any gun-control law ever been proven to be a significant deterrent to mass murderers and criminals?

Also copied from another thread:

IN EVERY COUNTRY THAT BANS GUNS.

Britain. Germany. Australia. France. Israel, and on and on.


12 people like this
Posted by Old Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2019 at 9:40 am

At this point, the national gun lobby is posting on this thread. they’re Terrified of legislation and are trying to sway public opinion. Whatever you read on this thread is probably not posted by a Palo Alto resident, but by a professional lobbyist. I’d ignore it.


13 people like this
Posted by Ban is no solution
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2019 at 10:27 am

Sorry Old Joe, I’m a MV resident for 16 years. I know, it’s hard to believe that many of us regular citizens don’t drink the liberal kool aid actual support the 2nd amendment. I’d argue that these threads are so heavily moderated and the articles so strongly biased that you’re the ones not seeing (or refusing to see) what majority feel and think


Like this comment
Posted by Burgie Burgess
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 12, 2019 at 10:55 am

@Ban is no solution

Israel is a gun-centric country. Where's the mass shootings and criminality there?


> When has any gun-control law ever been proven to be a significant deterrent to mass murderers and criminals?

again: everywhere they've been banned.


1 person likes this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 12, 2019 at 11:26 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Israel is NOT a gun-centric country. Even those Israelis who pass through extensive hoops to get a firearm permit can only own one gun. And that’s a handgun — not a semi-automatic rifle capable of rapid fire. There are also limits on ammunition.

Israel has serious national, ethnic and religious strife and its leaders, Left and Right, have recognized generations ago that US type easy access to guns would result in mess murders.

Israel limits gun permits to people who meet strict requirements of residency, occupation, or army rank. Schoolguards are armed to defend against terror attacks and the guards are well trained, well vetted armed forces veterans who are subjected to thorough psychological evaluations.

Forty percent of all gun permit applicants are flat-out rejected by the Israeli government.

Gun owners must renew their permits every year and immediately report any change of eligibility status to the Israeli government.


Like this comment
Posted by Burgie Burgess
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 12, 2019 at 11:36 am

@mauricio

I know. I would take Israeli gun laws QUICKER THAN THESE WEAPONS OF DESTRUCTION CAN SPIT OUT DEATH. I was just baiting the gun-lovers to step in it - they usually fall for the canard: "a weapon in every Israeli house"

;-)

It's pretty hard to take gun lovers seriously when they claim to keep a gun around for safety - a gun is 11 times more likely to harm a loved one than be used for defense.

Safety? Absurd. Along with immoral and a few other things.


2 people like this
Posted by From Another Galaxy & Time
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2019 at 9:00 am

Laser weaponry & light sabers may someday put an end to this earthly debate.

No further need for automation...just skill.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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