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Richmond ordinance covers ammo sales


Posted on Thu, Jul. 24, 2003

The impending arrival of Wal-Mart, recently charged with 490 counts of illegal gun sale practices by the state attorney general, spurred the City Council to quickly amend Richmond's tough gun ordinance to include the sale of ammunition.

The 1994 ordinance requires gun retailers to obtain a conditional use permit and the approval of the police chief.

"This is an emergency matter," Councilwoman Maria Viramontes said before the council unanimously passed the addition Tuesday night.

The changes may not end there.

Mayor Irma Anderson pressed the city attorney to explore an ordinance banning the sale of all firearms and ammunition. No cities in California have tried passing such a law, but several in Illinois, where a sweeping state law allows local jurisdictions to enact total bans, have succeeded.

Richmond's ordinance requires firearms retailers to carry liability insurance to compensate anyone injured by the products they sell. The city also requires background checks on gun sellers. Retailers must do business from a clearly identifiable commercial storefront; no one may sell firearms from a residence.

An investigation of six area Wal-Mart stores in March by the state showed the company sold guns to convicted felons and disregarded 10-day mandated waiting periods, among other offenses. Wal-Mart executives agreed in April to suspend gun sales, but not ammunition.

Last week, the company's community affairs manager said she would recommend against ammunition sales at a Hilltop store, but could not guarantee her superiors would adopt the suggestion. A Wal-Mart is slated to open in the long-vacant former Macy's building at the mall in fall 2004.

"Obviously, the Wal-Mart folks talking about selling ammunition has us all concerned," Councilman Jim Rogers said.

Councilman Tom Butt said he was deluged with calls by constituents after last week's session with Wal-Mart officials.

California cities lead the nation in restricting gun sales, Juliet Leftwich, managing attorney of Legal Community Against Violence, told the council. Many have spurred state laws, including requiring trigger locks and prohibiting the sale of so-called junk guns.

"In most jurisdictions, there are no laws," she said. "California has been very progressive, beginning in the 1990s."

No one spoke against the amendment, or stricter controls.

Activist Andres Soto said the number of deaths due to gun violence has decreased markedly since the ordinance was passed. In 1994, the year it was enacted, shooting deaths numbered 52. Last year, there were 28. This year 21 have lost their lives to date.

Assistant City Attorney Everett Jenkins said he is researching an outright gun ban and will report back to the council.