Arcata City Council advances firearm storage ordinance

Outdoor cannabis cultivation for personal use approved

The Arcata City Council deliberates. (Philip Santos — The Times-Standard)
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The Arcata City Council introduced a new firearm storage ordinance Wednesday evening that mandates conditions for how a firearm can be kept in personal residences.

The ordinance is largely the result of the advocacy of students from the Northcoast Preparatory and Performing Arts Academy.

“(I) never thought it would get this far,” said Eva Swartz, one of the students who helped galvanize support for the ordinance.

Swartz said she is appreciative of all the community members who helped propel the introduction of the ordinance.

The ordinance will require firearms be kept in one of four conditions: Firearms must be kept on a person, within reach of a person as if it was on the person, disabled with a trigger lock, or locked in a safe.

Members of the public who spoke on the issue advocated for and against the ordinance.

Humboldt County resident Steven Buckingham said while he respected the concerns of the proponents, the ordinance will allow for “warrantless search and seizure of people’s homes.”

“It actually disables people’s rights to defend themselves,” he said.

One speaker shared the story of a time when he was followed home from work by an unknown person. After arriving at his home, he said the pursuer got out of their car with a weapon. The speaker said he ran into his home and was unable to unlock his “digital biometric safe” because he was sweating. The speaker said he was able to escape unharmed because his roommates also had weapons.

“We’re looking at a law that to some degree seems unnecessary and over burdensome,” said Councilwoman Susan Ornelas.

In referring to the red flag law, which allows for the court-ordered removal of a firearm from someone’s home before they can commit a crime, Ornelas said there are “already a lot of checks and balances going on.”

Councilman Brett Watson noted the importance of the issue.

“I believe firearm safety is a really important topic,” he said.

Watson expressed concerns about the previous language of the ordinance, which wouldn’t have allowed firearms to be kept at an arms length. He suggested adding this provision to the ordinance, which it later was.

Mayor Sofia Pereira said the ordinance was codifying “common responsible practice among gun owners.”

The council will vote to adopt the ordinance at a later date.

Other business

The council passed an ordinance allowing for the outdoor cultivation of cannabis for personal use. Under state law, Arcata residents are limited to six plants for personal use.

The new ordinance states that “if not enclosed in a structure, then cultivation may occur only in an area not within a direct line of sight from the frontage public right of way.”

The ordinance will take effect in 30 days.

In response to public comment, City Manager Karen Diemer said the investigation of the fatal stabbing of Humboldt State University student David Josiah Lawson is still very active. Diemer said law enforcement is at a “critical point” in the investigation and will not be releasing detailed information.

As a result of the recent vandalism of the McKinley statue on the plaza, Diemer said the city has made several calls to individuals who might be able to restore the damage done to the statue.

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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