Francisco’s Gun Ban Initiative
Bad Law Hurts Good People...
[Michael Nevin Jr.] 10/14/05
The San Francisco Gun Ban Initiative, Proposition H, will appear
on the next election ballot in November. Several supervisors
have touted the ban as a step in curbing violence and increasing
public safety. A bold law with such high expectations merits
a closer look.
The Handgun Ban
The proposed ordinance would prohibit San Francisco residents
from possessing any handgun, and they would have 90 days to
relinquish their property. The sale, manufacture, and distribution
of firearms would be prohibited. Visitors to the city would
not be subject to the ban if they are in compliance with applicable
laws. Police officers and members of the military would also
be exempt while “carrying out the functions of his or
her government employment.” What does this mean for off-duty
law enforcement residing in San Francisco?
Michael Nevin Jr. - Contributor
Nevin Jr. is a 3rd generation California law enforcement
officer and freelance writer. Mike's writing explores
many topics ranging from the War on Terror to issues
facing America's police officers. Mike is a contributing
writer for several Internet websites including ChronWatch,
American Daily, Renew America.us, and Men's News Daily.
He can be contacted at email@example.com. [go
to Nevin index]
The role the
police department will play in any door-to-door gun confiscation
scheme is cause for concern. Nearly 22,000
handguns have been purchased by residents since 1996, according
to the state attorney general’s office. But there
is no way to determine how many total guns exist because
local governments are forbidden under state law from requiring
to be registered or licensed. It is unclear what database
the city would utilize to track San Franciscans who have
National Statistics and Studies Do Not Favor the Handgun
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted
from 1993 through 2001, violent crime declined 54%; weapon
violence was down 59%, and firearm violence decreased by 63%.
A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control released
in 2003 found no proof to support the claim that gun-control
laws are effective in preventing violence. The task force found
firearms-related injuries declined since 1993 despite approximately
4.5 million new firearms sold each year.
In December of 2004, the National Academy of Sciences released
the findings of a study: “Firearms and Violence: A Critical
Review.” “Current research and data on firearms
and violent crime are too weak to support strong conclusions
about the effects of various measures to prevent and control
gun violence,” according to the panel.
Guns are used defensively, according to some estimates, more
than 2 million times annually-- four times more than the estimated
use of a gun in commission of a crime.
Case Study—Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. provides a glimpse into gun prohibition after
it banned handguns in 1976. How successful has our nation’s
capital been in reducing violence? D.C. has consistently been
dubbed “Murder Capital U.S.A.,” dating back to
the early 1990s. The Department of Justice found that guns
accounted for 80 percent of Washington D.C.’s homicides
between 1985 and 1994. With a murder rate nearly 8 times
the national rate, it is clear that something is not working.
Washington D.C. had a homicide rate of 44.2 per 100,000 in
2003, while San Francisco had a homicide rate of 8.9 per
100,000 in 2003. D.C. had more than double the overall violent
rate when compared to San Francisco in 2003.
FBI Uniform Crime Report—San Francisco
In 1995 San Francisco had a population of 738,371. There were
99 homicides and 10,903 violent crimes.
In 2003 San Francisco had a population of 772,065. There were
69 homicides and 5,725 violent crimes.
From 1995 through 2003, the homicide rate decreased by 33.3%
and the violent crime rate decreased by 49.8% in San Francisco.
Although San Francisco had an unusual number of homicides,
88, in 2004, the city has averaged 71 homicides each year over
the past decade. 63 of the homicides in 2004 involved a firearm.
Societal Problem Not a Gun Problem
We need to look no further than across the bay in Oakland
to find anecdotal evidence highlighting the need for citizens
to have lifesaving options when facing violent encounters.
Patrick McCullough has spent a decade reporting drug dealers
to police. He is the face of the law-abiding citizen who
with urban terror. When McCullough shot and wounded someone
he believed was posing a threat to him, the Alameda County
D.A.’s office found that McCullough acted in self-defense.
McCullough may not live in a gated community or be able to
afford armed bodyguards, but he has an unalienable right to
defend himself and his family.
Jeff Weise, 16, killed his grandfather, who happened to be
a retired police officer, before stealing his guns and going
on a killing spree on the Red Lake Indian reservation in
that kid did that day, practically from the moment he walked
out of his bedroom, was a felony,” said Joe Olson, a
Hamline University law professor and president of the Gun Owners
Civil Rights Alliance. Olson concluded, “I don’t
think any gun-control laws would have made a difference.”
To believe that the proposed handgun ban would have an impact
on handgun violence, one would have to assume that criminals
would actually abide by the new law. After all, criminals
are undoubtedly responsible for the high crime rates involving
firearm violence. Considering the very definition of a criminal,
it would be hard to imagine that such enlightenment would
In fact, both reason and empirical research suggest that
most criminals are attracted to places where they meet less
Guns and Violence—A Law Enforcement Approach
The proposed handgun ban initiative states: “The presence
of handguns poses a significant threat to the safety of San
Franciscans.” In reality, the presence of criminals in
possession of any firearm poses a significant threat to the
safety of all Americans. Guns are nothing more than a tool
that if in the wrong hands will hurt innocent people. 9/11,
the worst terrorist attack on American soil, proved that box
cutters and deadly intentions could be as dangerous as almost
any weapon in a military arsenal.
Proactive law enforcement targeting crime-infested neighborhoods
has been the most effective method in curbing the violence.
The S.F.P.D., in conjunction with federal authorities, has
established a gun task force known as “Triggerlock II.” A
police department bulletin explains: “‘Triggerlock
II’ is committed to disarming violent criminals and reducing
gun violence by identifying the most dangerous offenders and
referring them for prosecution under state and federal firearm
When homicides in San Francisco surged in the first half
of 2004, the Gang Task Force and other specialized units
police department stepped up and cut the homicide rate by
40 percent in the second half of the year. According to an
in the San Francisco Chronicle: “The most important factor
in the decline, police say, is authorities’ attempt to
take those they consider the most violent, incorrigible criminals
off the streets with the help of the federal ‘Triggerlock’ law,
which provides for prison terms of 10 years or more for felons
who are caught with a gun.”
A targeted response to violent crime coupled with tough state
legislation such as “Three Strikes” ensures that
predators are not in a position to wreak havoc on society.
The District Attorney has made it clear that she will aggressively
prosecute anyone using firearms in the commission of a crime
and/or found to be in unlawful possession of a firearm.
Cities across the nation that employ a “zero tolerance” approach
to violent crime are reaping the benefits. New York City, which
leads the way in policing tactics such as CompStat, saw its
peak of 2,245 murders in 1990 drop to 571 in 2004. Chicago,
the nation’s murder capital in 2003 with 598 homicides
and a city that banned handguns in 1982, watched as homicides
in 2004 fell to 447. Police in the Windy City credited the
Targeted Response Unit that saturates areas known for gang
While the handgun ban initiative does a good job in circumventing
the Second Amendment, it does little to address the deeper
cultural issues of crime and violence. Random or targeted
acts of violence personally affect the law enforcement community.
Those dedicated to public service understand that we need
support any reasonable effort to stem the tide of violent
encounters threatening citizens and law enforcement alike.
intentions don’t necessarily make good law. Disarming
law-abiding citizens is not the answer.
Guns and Civil Liberties
The Pink Pistols, the largest national Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
and Transgender organization dedicated to the legal, safe,
and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority
community, has a San Francisco chapter and is outraged by
the proposed handgun ban. “The idea is to make the people
better, so they don't commit the crimes, or if you can't do
that, at least stop them when they do. A gun is the law-abiding
citizen's best tool to stop the criminal in his tracks,” states
Gwen Patton, International Media Spokesperson for the Pink
San Francisco has a storied reputation as a stronghold of
personal liberty. The Bill of Rights explicitly refers to
individuals, not rights of government. And most San Franciscans,
I suspect, are not in favor of allowing government to be
in the business of abrogating civil liberties.
No Constitutional Right to Police Protection
In DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services
(1989), the United States Supreme Court held that the state
constitutional obligation to protect citizens from private
California Government Code section 845 states, in part: “Neither
a public entity nor a public employee is liable for failure
to establish a police department or otherwise to provide police
protection service or, if police protection service is provided,
for failure to provide sufficient police protection service.”
Since even the fastest response times for police calls (9-1-1)
are measured in minutes rather than seconds, how does a law
enforcement agency explain to victims of violent crime that
the agency supported efforts denying them reasonable means
of self-defense? That’s a tall order.
Italian criminologist Cesare Beccaria wrote in 1764: “The
laws that forbid the carrying of arms…disarm only those
who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. …Such
laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the
assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent
homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater
confidence than an armed man.” Doesn’t this
ring true today?
As a person who takes a gun to work, I support the constitutional
right of my neighbors and other law-abiding citizens to choose
reasonable means of self-defense. I realize firsthand the
danger associated with guns in the hands of bad people. I
that law-abiding citizens are a cop’s best friend, and
the idea of disarming them seems, at best, irresponsible. When
we disarm honest, law-abiding citizens, we contribute to empowering
criminals and endangering society-at-large. CRO
 Curtis, Kim, “San Francisco, frustrated by rising homicides, tries
handgun ban,” Associated Press, 1/19/05
 “Weapon Use and Violent Crime, 1993-2001,” National Crime Victimization
Survey, U.S. Department of Justice
 Washington Times, Editorial, 10/7/03
 “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” National Academy
of Sciences, 12/16/04
 Lott, John, “Lottery Numbers: Why don’t media cover the good-news
stories,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/1/03 (Note: estimates are as high as
2.5 million times annually for defensive uses based on research by Gary Kleck,
 Ryan, Joan, “Guns are a bad idea, but so is ban,” San Francisco
 Crime in the States, 2003, Federal Bureau of Investigation
 Lee, Henry, “DA’s office clears man who shot teen neighbor,” San
Francisco Chronicle, 3/17/05
 Diaz, Kevin, “Red Lake shootings ignite scant debate,” Sacramento
 S.F.P.D. Department Bulletin 05-017, 2/7/05
 Van Derbeken, Jaxon, “Heading off homicide,” San Francisco Chronicle,
 Bone, James, “US murder rate sinks as zero tolerance puts gangs on
run,” TimesOnline, 1/3/05
 “Pink Pistols Angered, but Not Surprised, by SF Gun Ban Plans,” Pink
Pistols Press Release, 1/3/05
 DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Dep. of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989)
 Polsby, Daniel and Breenen, Dennis “Taking at Gun Control,” Heartland
Policy Study, 10/30/95
2005 Michael Nevin Jr.