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Santa Clara Co. board votes to ban guns on county property

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The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to preliminarily adopt an ordinance regulating firearms and ammunition on county property at their meeting Tuesday.

The ordinance adds a new chapter and modifies an existing one in order to “prohibit the possession, sale or discharge of firearms and the possession or sale of ammunition on county property.”

County Counsel James Williams introduced the proposed ordinance, which he and his staff compiled to model ordinances passed by other California cities and counties.

Locally, this ordinance’s language and structure echoed that of San Mateo and Alameda counties’ firearms ordinances, Williams said.

The ordinance’s intents, listed in the document itself, are both preventative and forward thinking in nature. These changes are meant to protect members of the public, including law enforcement, reduce fears, injuries and deaths that stem from firearm violence and ensure that use of firearms is done in a safe manner on county-owned property.

The ordinance states:

“The Board of Supervisors finds that firearm fatalities and injuries are of epidemic proportions in Santa Clara County and across the country.”

It goes on to note the April 3 YouTube shooting in San Bruno as the most recent “random act of mayhem and violence using firearms” in Northern California.

Williams did clarify county property does not encompass areas considered to be “public rights of way,” such as sidewalks or roads.

He also said that there would be people who were exceptions of the ordinance, such as police officers.

Supervisor Dave Cortese, who has led the discussion on what the county can do about gun violence since the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, stated that he wanted to add the language that allowed licensed federal firearm dealers to be able to conduct digital transactions or “order placing” at county events such as the Santa Clara County Fair.

Cortese described himself as a “purist” when it came to the First Amendment and said that he spoke up to ensure that people don’t feel as though their commercial speech rights are being infringed upon.

Cortese also commented that he wanted to make it clear that this was not the end of the discussion about gun violence as new ideas had arisen from the summit that he hosted April 28.

Supervisor Ken Yeager motioned for preliminary approval to be brought back up for final approval June 5 with Cortese’s modification.

Yeager said that the point of the ordinance was to ensure that county resources would not be dedicated to promoting more guns and to contribute to overall effort to reduce firearms in the county to keep the community safe.

Yeager stated he did not believe the ordinance would restrict anyone who has a legal permit and responsibly uses and contains their firearms because they can still do so on all other property not included in the language, such as personal, private property.

If the ordinance passes through final adoption on June 5, the ordinance will not apply to any established contracts with gun shows. Williams said that the county was not aware of any existing contracts but that one was possibly in the works.

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