- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Frustrated by an increase in homicides, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has proposed a sweeping ban on handguns, injecting this liberal city into the national debate over gun control.

The proposal would bar residents from keeping handguns in their homes or businesses and prohibit the sale, manufacture and distribution of any firearms or ammunition in San Francisco.

Only two other major U.S. cities — Washington and Chicago — have implemented handgun bans, and both were challenged quickly in the courts. The national gun lobby already has vowed to challenge San Francisco’s ban if voters approve it.

San Francisco has tried before to ban handguns. In 1982, a city ordinance was overturned because it applied to anyone who entered the city. A state court ruled that such actions were reserved for the state Legislature.

The supervisor who proposed the most recent ban, Chris Daly, said he and his counterparts already have received threatening calls and e-mails from gun supporters.

“Up to this point, I don’t think anyone has come up with anything that’s working,” Mr. Daly said. “This is my contribution to trying to figure out a way to turn back the tide of violence.”

San Francisco had 88 homicides in 2004, up from 69 in 2003. Sixty-three of last year’s homicides involved a firearm, police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens said. The city has averaged 71 homicides a year for the past decade, from a low of 58 in 1998 to a high of 99 in 1995. About 777,000 people live in San Francisco, according to the 2000 Census.

Although last year’s number of homicides is an increase from the previous year, it is comparable to other U.S. cities of similar size. In 2003, for example, Jacksonville, Fla., had 92 homicides and Indianapolis had 112.

Chuck Michel, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said San Francisco’s plan is ill-conceived and misplaced.

“It’s turning firearms into a scapegoat for failed city policies,” Mr. Michel said. “Criminals are never going to have any kind of problem getting the kind of guns they want.”

Mr. Michel said he is preparing a legal challenge, claiming a ban would violate the Second Amendment and that cities do not have the authority to regulate firearms.

If approved by a majority of the city’s voters in November, the law would take effect next January. Residents, who have bought nearly 22,000 handguns since 1996, would have 90 days to relinquish their weapons. The ban would make an exception for police officers, security guards, military personnel and others who require guns for their jobs.

It is impossible to know how many guns are on the streets of San Francisco because the state specifically forbids local governments from requiring firearms to be registered or licensed.

A buyer must fill out a form and submit to a background check when purchasing a gun, but that information does not need to be updated when the person moves, or loses or sells the gun.

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