Supervisor's Report

A moral imperative to end gun violence

Oct. 1 marked the 274th day of the year, and it also marked the 294th mass shooting in our country this year. Let that sink in for a moment: that is an average of more than one mass shooting per day in our country. And that is just mass shootings as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed and 20,000 wounded in nearly 40,000 gun violence incidents so far this year. There have also been 143 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Unfortunately and devastatingly, these numbers will continue to rise if nothing is done.

Those acts of senseless gun violence amount to countless families, friends, and loved ones left grieving and asking what we can do to end the epidemic of gun violence in our country.

After the unimaginable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, there seemed to be momentum from everyday Americans, led by our president, to say, “no more,” that gun violence is unacceptable, and we can and should act to keep people safe in their communities.

In fact, 90 percent of Americans polled after Sandy Hook agreed that there should be universal background checks on all gun sales. Currently, federal law only requires a background check at federally licensed firearm dealers, meaning that if someone wants to purchase a gun online or at a gun show, they are allowed to do so without a background check, no questions asked. Thankfully, 18 states, including California, have passed universal background check laws. But 32 states allow anyone to purchase a gun with no questions asked — and those guns easily flow into neighboring states.

To put it bluntly, our Congress, specifically Republicans in Congress, have failed our country by their inaction on gun violence. And, most important, they have failed the families who have lost their loved ones and friends to senseless gun violence.

Easy access to guns and ammunition continues to be the single largest contributing factor to the gun violence epidemic that has consumed our country for years. On top of that easy access, gaps currently exist in federal, state, and local regulatory oversight on gun and ammunition sales, which contribute to gun violence as well. Even though California and San Francisco have some of the toughest gun-violence prevention policies on the books, there still remains more that we can do here locally to protect public safety.

Recently, the Board of Supervisors approved common-sense gun-violence prevention policies that I authored that will require the videotaping of all gun sale purchases within San Francisco, and the regular electronic transmission of ammunition sales data and transfers to the San Francisco Police Department. Both policies will deter gun violence, stop people from obtaining guns and ammunition who are prohibited from doing so, and will help local law enforcement complete investigations if God forbid a shooting happens here in San Francisco.

Consider this: Currently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has found that licensed firearms dealers are the largest source of trafficked firearms in the country. The next biggest source of illegal gun transactions where criminals get guns are sales made by legally licensed dealers. Like bank robbers, who are interested in banks, gun traffickers are interested in licensed sellers because that’s where the guns are. This is why licensed sellers are a large source of illegal guns for traffickers, who ultimately wind up selling the guns on the street. Over 75 percent of the guns used in everyday shootings in America are obtained legally, and over 80 percent of the guns used in mass shootings since the 1970s were originally obtained through licensed dealers. To ignore this fact is tantamount to sticking our head in the sand.

Furthermore, a Washington Post investigation found that, as a result of inadequate staffing, the ATF was able to inspect less than 10 percent of licensed firearm dealers in 2009, and on average, dealers are inspected only once a decade, and funding from Congress to the agency is less today than it was in 2009. Last, the ATF found and has concluded that access to large numbers of firearms makes licensed dealers a particular threat to public safety when they fail to comply with the law because of their easy access to guns and the financial motives that exist to not obey the law.

As a result of my legislation, the last remaining gun store in San Francisco has decided to shut down. Though it was never the intent of my legislation, so be it. I would rather see a preschool, coffee shop, senior center, or some other neighborhood-serving entity that contributes to the vitality of our city in that location. San Francisco will be better off for it.

As supervisor, public safety has and will always be a top priority of mine during my tenure. It affects all of us — from seniors to adults, to parents and our children. The fact remains that guns and the people who use them illegally or irresponsibly continue to wreak havoc in our communities and for our families. I am happy to do my part to lessen gun violence here in San Francisco and stand committed to doing everything in my power to support further gun-violence prevention policies at every level of government to continue to keep our communities safe.

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Mark Farrell is District 2 supervisor. E-mail [email protected] or phone 415-554-7752.