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Morro Bay ordinance strengthens home gun storage requirements 

All gun owners in Morro Bay must follow new requirements for storing firearms at home.

At a Sept. 28 meeting, Morro Bay City Council passed a safe storage of firearms ordinance requiring guns in residences to be either stored in a locked container, disabled with a trigger lock, carried by the owner or an authorized user, or be within close enough proximity to the owner that they can readily retrieve it.

At the ordinance's first reading on Sept. 14, Police Chief Jody Cox said he did not support it.

click to enlarge GUN LAWS Morro Bay passed a new ordinance that requires gun owners to either secure, carry, or be able to readily retrieve their firearms at home. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • GUN LAWS Morro Bay passed a new ordinance that requires gun owners to either secure, carry, or be able to readily retrieve their firearms at home.

"I don't think any harm can come from passing it, I just don't see what the benefit will be," Cox said at the meeting. "I say that because California has a very robust storage law now."

California Penal Code already requires safe storage of guns if there are children or an unauthorized user in the home.

"[When] we respond to that type of incident, I'm going to charge the highest level that I can, and that's the penal code," Cox said. "The penal code clearly outlines what the penalty is for this. ... It far exceeds what we would have the ability to do in this type of an ordinance. ... It's kind of redundant."

City Attorney Chris Neumeyer said proponents of the ordinance point to cases of self-harm, suicide, and theft where a firearm was not secured. The current penal code does not apply in these cases, whereas the proposed city ordinance covers all unsecured firearm situations. Recently appointed City Councilmember Jennifer Ford said the topic hits close to home for her.

"I had a friend who was 19 years old who took his father's gun and shot himself. It wasn't put away, it wasn't safely stored," Ford said at the first reading of the ordinance. "He wasn't considered a child. That wouldn't fall under the [existing penal code]. ... I have to think of those types of situations that can happen."

Chief Cox added that the ordinance is hard to enforce.

"I can't knock on your door and say, 'Hey, I want to come in and search your house to see if you've secured your guns safely,'" he said. "... We're typically going to run into this type of violation after the fact. That means somebody may have gotten ahold of the gun, may have discharged it, and there may be injury related."

The council voted 4-1 to continue the ordinance to a second reading. Councilmember Jeff Heller voted against it, citing similar views to Chief Cox. At the Sept. 28 second reading, the council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance after discussing how the new law will be communicated to the public.

Other firearm-related measures approved by the council at its Sept. 14 meeting include gun safety community education, mass shooter training for the Morro Bay Police Department, and authorizing the council to send a letter to federal officials advocating for stronger gun safety laws. The council did not pass a proposed gun buyback program, citing issues around anonymity. Δ

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