San Clemente council majority votes to require gun owners safely store weapons when out of reach

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Gun owners in San Clemente are set to be required to make sure their firearms are stored safely when they are not being carried or at arms-length.A divided City Council has approved a new law that supporters say would help with preventing accidental access to guns by children, misuse of guns by those who are mentally ill or emotionally impaired and firearm thefts during home burglaries. The council will have to vote a second time to make the law final and for it to go into effect.
While federal and state laws already have mechanisms in place to address gun safety, the council majority favored implementing more specifics locally to address loopholes they see within those laws.
“If one gun owner locks it up, it will help,” said Councilmember Rick Loeffler, a 37-year law enforcement veteran who introduced the item to the council. “Right now, you can put 15 guns on your couch all loaded, leave the house and go on vacation, and it’s perfectly fine. I think as a responsible gun owner, you’d want your guns locked up, not only for safety but just so you can keep them. We do have guns stolen in San Clemente.”
“This is not invasive,” he added, “it’s sending a message to keep people secure and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”
The proposed ordinance is directed at owners who keep firearms in their homes, garages or sheds and would require them to store the firearms in locked containers or disable them with a trigger lock unless the weapon is being carried or is within the owner’s immediate control. The safe storage requirements would allow owners to store firearms loaded if they wish.
Federal and state laws preempt city law related to firearms, and criminal enforcement of the law is unlikely, city officials said. The new law also encourages gun owners to report the loss or theft of a gun.
Mayor Victor Cabral and Councilmember Steve Knoblock opposed the ordinance, worrying that its passage could open the city to possible litigation, they said. City Attorney Elizabeth Mitchell agreed she could not rule that out, adding there are some municipalities that have been sued.
“We’ve seen over the last number of decades the baby steps toward complete control of weapons,” Knoblock said, adding he sees the law as a violation of freedoms issue. “Safety is important, but the ability of citizens to quickly and easily have access to weapons for their self-defense is important. I don’t think this ordinance is necessary.”
Cabral wondered why statistics used for the ordinance compared San Clemente to larger cities such as Detroit and Baltimore. According to Loeffler, Los Angeles County and at least 70 other cities in California have adopted gun safety laws.
“I think San Clemente gun owners are responsible,” Cabral said, adding that to “offend the 2nd Amendment,” the city would need to show data and reasons as to how San Clemente is impacted.
“I don’t think we’ve built the record to demonstrate there is an issue here in San Clemente that can be fixed through this,” he said. “It’s preempted by our 2nd Amendment. I also think it’s preempted by state law.”
The discussion came to the council after being reviewed by the city’s Public Safety Committee, which recently discussed a safe storage ordinance proposed by Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization “fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.”
That discussion followed a 2021 resolution in which the City Council declared San Clemente a “2nd Amendment Freedom City.” As part of the resolution, the council then encouraged gun owners to complete firearms safety training and to make sure their weapons were stored safely and securely.

The Public Safety Committee — several members have law enforcement backgrounds — discussed the proposed ordinance in October and November and concluded that existing state laws, including the California Penal Code, “already comprehensively cover aspects of safe gun storage.” Ultimately, the committee advised against adopting the Moms Demand Action’s model ordinance, deeming further local legislation unnecessary.
“Their recommendation is not to support this,” Cabral said. “We can’t really enforce this till after the fact — if it’s a stolen gun or a parent violated the law. This opens up unneeded litigation and cost.”
A handful of residents spoke during public comments. Some shared stories of children accidentally handling guns and being shot and people with mental health issues using guns to commit suicide. Others are worried about the infringement on gun ownership and rights and partisanship and the inability to enforce the new law.
“The idea we have to wait before a child is shot, someone commits suicide, or, God forbid, one of our deputies is shot before we do something, that strikes me as the opposite of what we should do,” Councilmember Chris Duncan said before voting in favor of the law. “I think this ordinance is entirely consistent with the 2nd Amendment and state law. It provides more clarity on how we can safely keep and bear arms.”

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.