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Proposed weapons ban expanded to cover more events

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A proposed weapons ban for events like protests and parades were inspired by last year’s plan by the right-wing group Patriot Prayer to hold a rally at Crissy Field. The rally was ultimately canceled but prompted protests throughout San Francisco and concerns about the presence of weapons at Crissy Field, where federal law allows firearms. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s latest proposed gun control law would ban the possession of firearms at gatherings like parades or protests, even when they are relatively small.

Supervisor Catherine Stefani amended her legislation Wednesday at the Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee to have it apply to more events.

The proposal builds on a city law that prohibits carrying concealed firearms on most public property but not on public rights of way. Stefani said it’s meant “to make it clear that when you are in San Francisco you are free to exercise your First Amendment without intimidation or fear from those carrying concealed firearms.”

Law enforcement officials and security guards would be exempt from the ban.

The proposal is expected to be approved by the full board on May 1 after a second hearing next week by the committee, which is needed because of the amendments made.

The legislation initially applied to a parade or event requiring a city permit that includes 50 or more attendees as well as to demonstrations held in a public park or public right of way, such as a street or sidewalk, with 50 or more people.

The amendments made by Stefani Wednesday apply the legislation to events with 20 or more people “to create a broader net of events covered by this ordinance.” The firearm ban would apply to a 500-foot radius around the demonstrations.

The proposal was inspired by last year’s controversial plan by right-wing Patriot Prayer group to hold a rally on federal land at Crissy Field. The rally was ultimately canceled, but raised concerns of violence because federal law allows firearms in national parks.

Stefani also referred to the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which is before the U.S. Senate and would force states to honor concealed carry permits issued in other states. The legislation “could dramatically increase the number of people carrying concealed guns in San Francisco,” Stefani said.

It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. In 2011, it was estimated there were 35,000 carrying concealed weapons licenses issued in California.

Stefani’s legislation drew the support of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and District Attorney George Gascon.

“Where there are guns, there are gun incidents,” said Allison Anderman, an attorney with Giffords Law Center. “The presence of a gun in an intense emotional situation makes it more likely that the gun will be used.”

Max Szabo, a spokesperson for Gascon, said “We are happy to support this and glad we are doing as much as we can to limit the number of guns that are out there in public and especially at gatherings such as these.”

Violations of the law would be misdemeanors and come with penalties including fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. The gun control provision would be a condition of city permits granted for events.

“Freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble and protest should not be infringed, chilled or suppressed by the presence of guns at public events,” Stefani said.

The vote on the legislation comes just weeks after students across the nation organized the March for Our Lives demonstration calling for more gun control laws in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

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