Next January, Berkeley will become one of growing number of California cities to have a bill in place concerning the safe storage of firearms. A city council meeting on November 27 passed a new ordinance, which would require all gun owners to store their firearms in a gun safe, or with the use of a trigger lock. Trigger locks are defined by the State of California Department of Justice as being, “Typically two-piece devices that fit around the trigger and trigger guard [of a firearm] to prevent access to the trigger.” These can be locked by either a key or a combination-type lock.
The idea behind this bill was to prevent the accidental discharging of weapons in homes, particularly as they are often kept in the reach of children. Maren Frye, the co-president of the Berkeley High School (BHS) club, Berkeley High Students Demand Action (BHSDA), stated that, “Last year there were over 250 unintentional shootings by minors.” Another member of BHSDA, Rachel Pierce, added that a second motivation to fighting for this bill was its effects on suicides that occur with the use of an unsafely stored firearm in the home. “Firearm safe storage is proven to drastically reduce teen suicide,” said Pierce. According to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, from 2005 to 2014, roughly 20,000 American minors were killed or injured in accidental shootings. Giffords additionally claims that safe gun storage also lowers risks of teen suicide. “States with a law in place that requires handguns to be locked at least in certain circumstances have 40% fewer suicides per capita and 68% fewer firearm suicides per capita than states without these laws,” reads the Giffords website.
The BHSDA letter of support, written to city council members, discussed other effects this bill could have, such as lowering domestic disputes resulting in death, as well as gun thefts.
The safe gun storage ordinance passed the Berkeley city council unanimously, which meant a huge victory to pro-gun reform organizations, such as BHSDA. This club had much to do with the passing of this bill. They originally found it through the national Students Demand Action organization. After discovering that it had not yet been implemented in Berkeley, they petitioned around the city, collecting over 500 Berkeley adult resident signatures. This was enough to bring the ordinance in front of Berkeley City Councilmember Susan Wengraf. BHSDA worked with Wengraf and several lawyers to bring it in front of the city council. Pierce stated that what had encouraged them to fight for the passing of this bill was that, “This ordinance was previously passed in over 10 counties and cities in California, but had yet to be passed in Berkeley.” Some cities that have already passed some version of this ordinance include San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz.
While the passing of this bill was a huge step towards safer gun reform for BHSDA, the group will not just settle for having the bill passed only in Berkeley. “Our next goal is to bring this to the state level,” said Pierce.