City OKs Moratorium on New Gun Stores

(Photo by Gavin J. Quinton / Burbank Leader) - Michelle Webster leaves the podium at Burbank City Hall after speaking in favor of a moratorium on the establishment of new gun retailers during a public hearing Tuesday.

First published in the July 30 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

By Gavin J. Quinton
Burbank Leader

The Burbank City Council voted to approve an urgency ordinance Tuesday, levying a 45-day moratorium on the establishment of new firearm retailers after activists expressed concerns about the number of gun stores in Burbank.
The move grants city staff time to investigate zoning regulations for gun dealers and other potential gun-safety programs.
Activists on both sides of the issue addressed the City Council during a public hearing on Tuesday night. Members of the National Rifle and Pistol Association sported matching red T-shirts, while community members like Michelle Webster, who rallied against gun violence after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, wore orange, the signature color for gun-control advocates.
Webster and other Burbank residents pleaded with the City Council to limit the number of gun stores in Burbank, many of which are less than 1,000 feet from schools.
Advocates opposing the moratorium were concerned about the welfare of local gun businesses, and some spoke out with concerns that the City Council would be threatening their 2nd Amendment rights if access to gun dealers was restricted.
Webster addressed the Council earlier in the evening, responding to arguments from opposing advocacy groups.
“I promise you, there is nothing in the 2nd Amendment that requires Burbank to become the No. 1 gun retailer in the nation. … Mass shootings are rare, that’s true. Do we want to roll the dice?” Webster asked.
She breathed a sigh of relief after the city clerk tallied the votes and announced that the ordinance passed.
Councilmember Nick Schultz was first to respond to commenters in favor of the urgency ordinance.
“We have a problem in this country. Guns contribute to violence,” he said. “To me, we can respect 2nd Amendment rights, and we can do what we should do responsibly, and that is take a pause and ask ourselves a very important question. Are we doing everything, in our power, to keep our community safe?”
Other Council members followed suit, and voted to approve the ordinance after addressing community concerns.
In taking the action, Council also directed staff to research and report back on other short-term and long-term options to address community concerns regarding firearms.
Measures could include a gun-buyback program, an option which would allow the city to purchase used firearms from residents, as well as gun-education programs. Also discussed were potential measures against ghost guns — firearms that lack serial numbers or those that have been assembled illegally.
“By establishing this temporary moratorium, staff can further look into firearm-related measures to preserve the general welfare of our community,” Mayor Jess Talamantes said.
During the 45-day period, staff will study and propose “potential land-use regulations concerning firearm retailers,” according to city officials.
This could include limiting or reducing the number of firearms retailers in the city by suspending the issuance of new licenses and allowing the number of retailers to decline over time. Staff will also investigate establishing additional requirements for firearms retailers, such as audits, inspections and transaction procedures as well as the option to enact buffer zones to prevent the establishment of firearm retailers near sensitive-use locations, such as schools, religious centers and parks, city officials said.

Photo courtesy Anthony Portantino
California Attorney General Robert Bonta, activist Linda Bessin and state Sen. Anthony Portantino attend a bill-signing ceremony and press conference at Santa Monica College last Friday, July 22.

California Passes Gun Reform Measures
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 1327, a major gun reform bill jointly authored by Burbank’s two senators, Bob Hertzberg and Anthony Portantino. The bill allows private citizens to sue a person who manufactures, distributes, transports, imports or sells assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns or ghost-gun kits in California.
It allows citizens to sue for $10,000 on each weapon involved, as well as attorney fees.
Newsom is the sponsor of the bill and held a bill-signing ceremony and press conference in Santa Monica last Friday.
SB 1327 takes its framework from Texas Senate Bill 8, an anti-abortion bill which allowed private citizens to sue those who perform or aid in abortions.
“If Texas can outrageously use this type of law to attack a woman’s reproductive freedom, we can do the same thing in California to hold gun dealers accountable for their actions,” Portantino said.
“The continued need to adopt sensible solutions to our nation’s tragic history of gun violence is dire and necessary,” he added.
“Any tool we can use to protect the public is the right thing to do,” Hertzberg said. “If [we] have a situation with ghost guns, assault weapons and 50-caliber machine guns killing innocent men, women and children, then we have an obligation to act.”
Also signed into law last week was SB 906, another gun-reform measure authored by Portantino that requires school districts to educate parents about the importance of safe firearm storage.
The bill also requires schools to conduct robust investigations of imminent-violent threats. It was authored in response to a shooting in Michigan where a school district was notified of an imminent threat and failed to act, said Portantino.
Activist Linda Bessin — founder of Blue Lives Burbank, a gun-control advocacy group — attended the Santa Monica bill signing ceremony last week, alongside Portantino. Bessin organized protests in June against the recent relocation of Gun World into a larger space. Portantino and Bessin discussed the issue of Burbank’s concentration of gun stores with Newsom and state Attorney General Robert Bonta during the event, Portantino said.