SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego City Attorney's Office Thursday urged families with guns in the home to practice proper firearm safety while self- quarantining to keep the weapons out of the hands of children.
With stay-at-home orders issued at the state and local levels, and schools closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, City Attorney Mara Elliott's office said gun safety is paramount.
"When you have guns and children in the home and do not practice safe storage, you are increasing the risk that someone will be accidentally shot," Elliott said. "Children are very resourceful when it comes to locating things their parents thought they'd never find. When they find a gun, it often leads to tragedy."
The city's Safe Storage of Firearms Ordinance, which was authored by Elliott and went into effect last year, requires San Diego gun owners to store firearms in a locked container or to secure guns with a trigger lock unless they are in the immediate control of an authorized user.
The City Attorney's Office said trigger locks and gun safes are readily available for purchase online and that all guns sold in California after Jan. 1, 2002, were required to come with a free trigger lock.
Elliott's office said 4.5 million children nationwide live in homes with one more loaded and unlocked firearms.
Firearm retailers nationwide have seen an uptick in firearm sales amid the coronavirus pandemic, and it remains unclear whether gun stores might be ordered to close locally.
In one of the county's coronavirus-related briefings, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said firearm stores were not considered essential businesses that should remain open per the state's stay-at-home order.
Earlier this week, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said his office was awaiting further guidance from the governor's office, and would not force gun stores to close in the meantime, citing a concern that doing so would push consumers to purchase guns on the black market.
On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom decided that he would defer to the state's sheriffs "on whether gun stores are essential businesses that should remain open under his (COVID-19-related) executive order," Gore noted in an updated statement released Thursday afternoon.
The sheriff said he would not ask gun stores to close, but advised that they take San Diego County's public health orders regarding public gatherings and social distancing into consideration while they do business.
Gore said gun retailers should "look at alternative sales options, which might include scheduling appointments," in order to comply with county health guidelines and prevent long lines from forming outside of gun stores.
The sheriff also urged county residents to only buy guns through federally licensed dealers.