national opinion

Monday Column
Carol Platt Liebau

[go to Liebau index]

Latest Column:
Stopping the Meltdown
What Beltway Republicans Need To Do

Subscribe to CRO Alerts
Sign up for a weekly notice of CRO content updates.

Jon Fleischman’s
The premier source for
California political news

Michael Ramirez

editorial cartoon

Do your part to do right by our troops.
They did the right thing for you.
Donate Today

CRO Talk Radio
Contributor Sites
Laura Ingraham

Hugh Hewitt
Eric Hogue
Sharon Hughes
Frank Pastore
[Radio Home]
















San 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

Michael 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, and Men's News Daily. He can be contacted at [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.[1] But there is no way to determine how many total guns exist because local governments are forbidden under state law from requiring firearms to be registered or licensed. It is unclear what database the city would utilize to track San Franciscans who have lawfully purchased handguns.

National Statistics and Studies Do Not Favor the Handgun Ban Argument

· 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%.[2]

· 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.[3]

· 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.[4]

· 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.[5]

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.[6] With a murder rate nearly 8 times the national rate, it is clear that something is not working. [7]

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 crime rate when compared to San Francisco in 2003.[8]

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.[9]

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 lives 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.[10] 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 Minnesota. “Everything 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.”[11]

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 occur. In fact, both reason and empirical research suggest that most criminals are attracted to places where they meet less resistance.

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 violations.”[12]

When homicides in San Francisco surged in the first half of 2004, the Gang Task Force and other specialized units of the police department stepped up and cut the homicide rate by 40 percent in the second half of the year. According to an article 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.”[13]

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 violence.[14]

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 to support any reasonable effort to stem the tide of violent encounters threatening citizens and law enforcement alike. However, good 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 Pistols.[15]

San Francisco has a storied reputation as a stronghold of personal liberty. The Bill of Rights explicitly refers to rights of 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 has no constitutional obligation to protect citizens from private violence.[16]

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.”[17] 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 also realize 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

[1] Curtis, Kim, “San Francisco, frustrated by rising homicides, tries handgun ban,” Associated Press, 1/19/05
[2] “Weapon Use and Violent Crime, 1993-2001,” National Crime Victimization Survey, U.S. Department of Justice
[3] Washington Times, Editorial, 10/7/03
[4] “Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” National Academy of Sciences, 12/16/04
[5] 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, Criminologist)
[6] Ryan, Joan, “Guns are a bad idea, but so is ban,” San Francisco Chronicle, 12/23/04
[7] Crime in the States, 2003, Federal Bureau of Investigation
[8] Ibid
[9] Curtis
[10] Lee, Henry, “DA’s office clears man who shot teen neighbor,” San Francisco Chronicle, 3/17/05
[11] Diaz, Kevin, “Red Lake shootings ignite scant debate,” Sacramento Bee, 4/4/05
[12] S.F.P.D. Department Bulletin 05-017, 2/7/05
[13] Van Derbeken, Jaxon, “Heading off homicide,” San Francisco Chronicle, 12/23/04
[14] Bone, James, “US murder rate sinks as zero tolerance puts gangs on run,” TimesOnline, 1/3/05
[15] “Pink Pistols Angered, but Not Surprised, by SF Gun Ban Plans,” Pink Pistols Press Release, 1/3/05
[16] DeShaney v. Winnebago Cty. Dep. of Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989)
[17] Polsby, Daniel and Breenen, Dennis “Taking at Gun Control,” Heartland Policy Study, 10/30/95

copyright 2005 Michael Nevin Jr.




Blue Collar -  120x90
120x90 Jan 06 Brand
Free Trial Static 02
ActionGear 120*60
Free Trial Static 01
Applicable copyrights indicated. All other material copyright 2003-2005