Supes ban sales of .50-caliber rifles
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
Contra Costa supervisors deflected volleys from Second Amendment advocates Tuesday and prohibited the sale of a weapon they say could transform a refinery into a fiery chemical weapon.
The board voted 4-0 to ban firearms dealers from distributing powerful .50-caliber rifles in the county's unincorporated areas. Supervisor Millie Greenberg of Danville was absent.
"I believe it's our responsibility in terms of health, safety and welfare to move ahead with this ordinance," said Supervisor Gayle Uilkema of Lafayette, who sponsored the measure along with John Gioia of Richmond.
The ban will go into effect 30 days after a scheduled second reading April 6. It will apply to just two gun retailers, neither of which sell the weapon. However, the board plans to magnify the ordinance's impact by imploring cities throughout the county to adopt similar measures.
Supervisors took their action in the shadow of a probable lawsuit. The California Rifle and Pistol Association on Monday faxed each supervisor part of a complaint the association intends to file.
The board defeated a lawsuit filed by developers and cities when it constricted the urban limit line in 2000, Gioia said. Supervisors didn't back down then, he said, and they shouldn't now.
"We stood firm, we did what we thought was best in the in the public interest, and we won," he said.
About 20 gun advocates blasted the supervisors for passing a meaningless ordinance that they said violates their Second Amendment rights. The legislation hurts gun owners, but does nothing to combat terrorism, said Al Di Prima, a Concord resident.
"After 9/11, we didn't ban airplanes or tall buildings because we were afraid of terrorism," he said. "After the Oklahoma City bombing we didn't ban Chevy vans and fertilizer."
Bill Tharp, a San Ramon resident and NRA member, called the restrictions a "ridiculous waste of time and money," especially with Contra Costa facing a possible $82.4 million shortfall next year.
"This county is running in the red," he said. "We have serious, serious budget problems. The supervisors need to be spending time balancing the budget, not passing gun control laws."
Countering claims of fiscal irresponsibility, Juliet Leftwich, managing attorney for the nonprofit Legal Community Against Violence, offered to help the board find pro bono legal help to defend against gun lobbyists.
To highlight the weapon's destructive power, supervisors showed a Marine training video of a .50-caliber rifle blowing holes in a 31/2-inch-thick manhole cover and a stack of 8-inch thick cinder blocks.
The gun rights advocates cried foul, saying the film demonstrated a military assault rifle and armor-piercing bullets, both already illegal under state and federal law.
"That Marine film was about as disingenuous as you can get to us," said Pittsburg resident Darryl Phillips.
A smaller group of gun control advocates praised the supervisors' action. "This is an extremely dangerous weapon we don't want in our community," said Andres Soto, board member of the Violence Policy Prevention Center.
Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, has introduced a state ban on selling .50-caliber rifles. The Senate Public Safety Committee is reviewing the bill.