LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Los Angeles City Council pressed forward with its push to end gun violence, unanimously passing an ordinance on Tuesday to require handgun owners to disable firearms or keep them in locked storage at home.
Subject to approval by Mayor Eric Garcetti, the ordinance was passed unanimously by the fourteen members of the council. The city will insert the ordinance into a section of the LA Municipal code. It is expected to go into effect in 30 days.
The ordinance contains an exception that allows gun owners to keep guns in their homes if the firearm is within "close enough proximity and control" that the owner "can readily retrieve and use the handgun as if carried on the person."
City Attorney Mike Feuer's spokesman Rob Wilcox told the LA Times that it would be up to the courts to decide what "control" means on a "case by case" basis.
Councilman Paul Krekorian tabled the motion to create the law. Before the council voted on the measure, he noted the dangers unlocked guns present to children and people who are suicidal.
Krekorian pointed out that more preschoolers are killed with guns each year than police officers.
"It's unacceptable to live in a country where it's more dangerous to be a preschooler than to be a police officer," he said. "We can do something about that today. We can once and for all mandate that people who own guns [and] people who have guns in their home for safety, just exercise the basic, common-sense safe storage measures that even the National Rifle Association recommends."
Councilman Mitch Englander added: "This is less about gun control and more about controlling guns."
Krekorian said in a news conference after the vote passed that owners found in violation of the ordinance will face misdemeanor charges.
California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Krekorian said that LA's storage law is the toughest of its kind in California.
The councilman told Courthouse News that the city will also educate the public about the dangers of not locking up handguns.
"One of the most important things about passing the ordinance is changing the conversation and having people start to talk about this. We intend to talk about it every way that we can," Krekorian said, adding that he would consider sending written notifications to gun owners so they understand the ordinance and state laws.
Last week, gun rights advocates and Los Angeles County sheriff deputies filed a lawsuit challenging the city's ban on high-capacity gun magazines.
Michel & Associates, the Long Beach firm representing the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the gun-storage ordinance.
Krekorian said that he could not predict if the NRA would challenge the ordinance but said the group has challenged similar regulations in Sunnyvale and San Francisco.
"This has been an important part of what the NRA has tried to teach to people for many, many years - that safe storage is the gun owner's responsibility - and so we're simply making that responsibility a mandate of law and I wouldn't imagine there is any logic to opposing that," Krekorian said.
The NRA could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
A 2005 study found that 1.7 million children under 18 lived in homes with loaded, unlocked guns.
Guns that were not safely secured accounted for the deaths of over five children under the age of 12 per month in 2013. In each case, the guns were at the home of family member or friend, according to city papers filed in support of the law.
Women Against Gun Violence executive Laurie Saffian said outside council chambers that she was pleased that the law is now on the city's books.
"We think that it is going to save lives - that once people are aware of the threat of having an unlocked firearm in your home the majority of gun owners are going to take action to ensure that their firearms are locked up. I think that most do, actually. But the ones that don't, I think this sends an important message that this needs to be done," Saffian said.
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