Posted by on September 26, 2016
Categories: Bay Area

(BANT) – Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill today that will require California law enforcement officers to lock away their handguns when left in an unattended vehicle, state officials announced.

Senate Bill 869 was introduced by Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo and Santa Clara counties) back in January.

The bill will update an already existing state law, which requires civilians who leave their handguns in their car to store them securely in a lockbox attached to the vehicle or the vehicle’s trunk, and out of plain view. Law enforcement officers had previously been exempt from the requirement, Hill’s office said.

A violation of the requirement will be met with a fine of up to $1,000, Hill’s office said.

The bill however would exempt peace officers carrying out official duties during circumstances that require immediate aid or action. Handguns being shipped legally though a carrier such as FedEx or UPS will also be exempt, according to Hill’s office.

“Senate Bill 869 closes a loophole so law enforcement officers-just like every other gun owner-must safely and securely store their handguns when leaving them in a car,” Hill said in a statement. “This is a matter of basic public safety and common sense.”

A number of recent incidents involving handguns stolen from law enforcement vehicles and then used to commit crimes have occurred in the Bay Area.

San Francisco resident Kate Steinle, 32, was fatally shot in July 2015 when a homeless man shot a gun near Pier 14. The gun was later confirmed to have been stolen from an off-duty federal agent who left it in a parked car.

In August 2015, guns were also stolen from the vehicle of a Hayward police officer in Oakland, as well as from the vehicle of the University of California at Berkeley’s police chief while she was jogging.

Then in September 2015, Emeryville resident Antonio Ramos, 27, was fatally shot as he was working on a mural in Oakland. The gun used in the shooting had been stolen from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in an auto burglary in San Francisco earlier that month.

Additionally, two fatal shootings in October committed during robberies in San Francisco and Marin County by a trio of drifters were linked to a gun stolen from a vehicle in San Francisco just days earlier.

Also, in February, a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agent reported losing his pistol in San Francisco.

Both San Francisco and Oakland have put similar laws into effect earlier this year, requiring firearms to be locked in a lockbox or trunk of a vehicle.

Hill said while the passing of SB 869 is a victory for gun safety, he plans on working on legislation that would help law enforcement agencies keep track of guns that are lost or stolen.

“Building on SB 869, I plan on introducing legislation next year to tighten up these practices so that every enforcement agency is required to have a process in place to account for all the weapons they own or use,” Hill said.

SB 869 will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, according to Hill’s office.