Following a spate of mass shootings this year, Mountain View City Council members are interested in passing stricter gun-control measures at a local level, but they are worried the task could become overwhelming.
Throughout the U.S., mass shootings have become more frequent, deadly and devastating. The deadliest years on record for mass shootings were 2017 and 2018, and this year is showing signs of following that trend. In Mountain View, local leaders were particularly alarmed by the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on July 28, which resulted in three people killed and 12 injured.
Prior to the Gilroy shooting, Mountain View council members were already interested in drafting gun-safety measures. Last year, the city banned the sale of semiautomatic rifles to anyone under the age of 21. But the incident underscored the need for more action. Earlier this month the council unanimously agreed to have city staff quickly return with some ideas.
At the Sept. 17 meeting, the council took a high-level view of current regulations in state and federal gun laws. California is generally regarded as having the strongest gun regulations in the nation, leading some City Council members to suggest that going further with local action might not be the best use of the city's resources.
Gun control is important, said Councilman John McAlister, but he expressed doubt that the city could take meaningful action, at least not without burning through considerable staff time.
"I don't think anything that we can pass here will ever prevent anybody if their mind is set on doing something," he said. "Yes, it's important but there's a lot of laws. I want to get a big bang for the buck."
To his point, city staff said that prioritizing gun-control regulation could mean that other city goals would need to be postponed or canceled. It all depends on what the council wants to achieve, said City Manager Dan Rich.
As the council's main proponent of gun restrictions, Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga urged her colleagues to keep considering some kind of measure. Some state gun laws are being challenged in court, and she suggested that local restrictions could provide a backstop if those regulations are found to be unconstitutional. At best, she said that the city could enforce stricter rules on the nearby gun retailers, prohibiting them from operating in certain areas of town.
"I think it's safe to say that our community is in favor of gun-safety measures," Abe-Koga said. "Our young people are asking for this."
City Council members were cautious but open to hearing some ideas. Several council members urged city staff not to reinvent the wheel, and to instead borrow ideas from gun safety organizations.
City staffers say they will try to return with a report on options sometime in early 2020.