San Francisco’s Last Gun Shop Standing Could Be Forced to Close Because of New City Ordinance

The owner of the last gun shop in San Francisco is afraid he will be forced to close the business because of a new ordinance that would force him to videotape all gun sales for the city’s police department.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell is expected to formally propose the ordinance to the city’s Board of Supervisors in September.

“What we are doing is essentially closing what amounts to a loophole between federal and state law and making sure that San Francisco continues to stay at the forefront of gun control legislation in our country,” Farrell said.

High Bridge Arms, the only place one can legally purchase firearms in San Francisco, is such a rarity that it has become a tourist attraction. But it won’t be for long if owner Steve Alcairo is forced to install this new videotaping system.

It is not like Alcairo doesn’t already have video cameras watching the floor of High Bridge Arms. He told KPIX-TV there are already 17 cameras keeping an eye on customers and employees in the interest of store security.

However, Farrell’s ordinance would involve more than just video cameras. In addition to being forced to record all gun sales on videotape, Alcairo’s employees would have to record gun and ammo customers’ names, addresses, birthdates, and driver’s license numbers, and then turn all of that information over to police.

It would be a step too far, in Alcairo’s opinion. He said most of his customers don’t want to give that kind of information to a pawn shop.

“What we don’t do is voluntarily give private information to the police department,” Alcairo said. “Voluntarily, we just don’t do that. People are very private about their information.”

Because of that desire for privacy, Alcairo is afraid his customers will simply go to another city to buy their firearms and he will be forced to close.

“Why would you shop here if you could just go to Pacifica?” a High Bridge Arms employee told SFist. He said that neighboring communities have less-intrusive gun-purchasing restrictions.

“I wouldn’t shop here.”

But Farrell said 17 counties in California are considering similar legislation, so gun customers may not have many options left if they want to stay in the state

He also plans to expand the ordinance to cover Internet gun sales.

Farrell said nobody wants to see one of the city’s businesses close. But he feels when the safety of San Francisco is weighed against the loss of one small establishment like High Bridge Arms, the choice is obvious.

In fact, Farrell told KPIX-TV he is not going to lose any sleep if a gun store closes.

“I’m first and foremost, and way more than the existence of a gun store, concerned about the public safety of our residents. And if one has to trump the other, I am completely comfortable with that.”

It is true that as of July 2015, 31 people had been murdered in San Francisco, pushing the city’s homicide rate up 71 percent higher than it was in July 2014.

But Alcairo said Farrell should spend more time with the High Bridge Arms clientele. If he did, Alcairo is confident the San Francisco supervisor would learn criminals don’t buy their guns legally.

“The element we’re concerned with, they don’t shop here. They don’t,” Alcairo said. “I mean, you’re going to get video surveillance of people who are coming in here legally buying stuff with their identification; criminals are not doing that.”

His point is supported by a new study from the University of Chicago Crime Lab.

Although researchers talked to close to 100 prisoners inside Illinois’ Cook County Jail, it’s a safe bet to assume San Francisco’s criminal element is not all that different from those who practice their craft in Chicago.

The Chicago Crime Lab survey showed very few of those interviewed behind bars bought the guns they used to commit crimes from gun shows, over the Internet, or from licensed stores. And, this might be a surprise. Most said they didn’t steal the guns.

Nearly 70 percent said they bought guns from family or friends because they didn’t want to get caught by cops in a police sting operation or, God forbid, get robbed by a stranger.

The Chicago Crime Lab survey could also put the fear of selling assault-style weapons to rest. Only a few of the men said they had ever possessed one of those guns, like an AK-47. Most preferred semiautomatic handguns.

The survey showed criminals do like good-sized clips in those handguns. Best-case scenario is at least 30 bullets in the magazine.

The more bullets the better is always a good choice because most of those surveyed admitted they don’t know much about their weapons, never practice with targets, and really can’t shoot straight.