Monterey Park City Council approves gun retail ‘buffer zone’

Gun Rights

Monterey Park’s City Council has unanimously approved an ordinance that will outlaw retail sales of gun sales within a 1,000-foot zone around “sensitive receptors” such as schools and residences.

The vote on Thursday, Aug. 3, comes after 11 people were shot and killed on Jan. 21 at Monterey Park’s Star Ballroom Dance Studio amid the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations.

“I know that as a parent and as a teacher in this community, I think that it is very important to keep our families and our residencies and also our schools safe,” said Mayor Jose Sanchez before casting his vote. “This is one way, I think, for us to try to send a message to not just our community but to our nation as a whole of the necessary measures that we need when it comes to gun control.”

Locally, there are a few retailers already in the area considered not compliant with these 1,000-foot buffer zones, but their existence before the ordinance is considered “legal non-conforming” and are allowed to remain. Neither EuroArms on West Valley Boulevard nor Caps Armory on Monterey Pass Road elected to comment. A call to Big 5 on South Atlantic Boulevard corporate office had not been returned.

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For some council members, the new ordinance, months in the making, was only the first step.

Councilmember Thomas Wong proposed an effort to collaborate countywide to expand the buffer zone restrictions to more cities.

“Maybe we can look at efforts to encourage (Los Angeles) to pass it and share this ordinance language and the research with our neighboring cities to encourage them to adopt similar restrictions in their own communities, so that a store doesn’t open up just outside of our borders that otherwise would not be allowed to open up,” he said.

The Monterey Park gunman, Huu Can Tran, 72, used a semi-automatic handgun in his rampage. The gun was purchased in Monterey Park but it was not registered in California, authorities said. Tran was found to have been hoarding ammunition and firearms. He killed himself after a standoff with police hours after the event.

Monterey Park has supported other gun reform bills, including Senate Bill 14: Age 21 Act, Senate Bill 25: Assault Weapons Ban of 2023 and California Senate Bill 2, prohibiting a person from carrying a concealed firearm or carrying a loaded firearm in public.

The city itself became the backdrop to President Joe Biden’s visit in March, in which he renewed a call for Congress to revive expired federal legislation that bans assault weapons.

In February, responding to the Monterey Park shooting, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors passed a package of measures seeking to curb gun violence, and proposed others, including a similar buffer zone requiring gun stores to operate at least 1,000 feet away from schools, parks or daycare centers or other gun shops in unincorporated areas. The Board also banned the sale of large-caliber handguns and ammunition and one that prohibits people from carrying guns in county parks, plazas, beaches and buildings — with exceptions for law enforcement, active military and others.

Preceding the supervisors’ action, back in September, the National Rifle Association had criticized the board in an emailed statement.

Dan Reid, the NRA’s western regional director, wrote, “The L.A. County Board consistently supports every ill-conceived gun control proposal while providing a free pass to the criminals wreaking havoc on their streets.”

But even while acknowledging the likelihood of constitutional challenges over legislation that seeks to prevent gun violence, local policymakers have continued to build off efforts to pass reform legislation.

In 2016, California was the first state in the nation to adopt a “red flag law,” allowing courts to issue restraining orders to prevent individuals deemed to be a danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms.

Such restraining orders have been used at least 5,000 times in the United States, and in California have prevented 58 mass shootings, according to Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, who along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, introduced the Language Access to Gun Violence Prevention Strategies Act.

The bill seeks to remove linguistic barriers to participation in community gun violence prevention.

Gillibrand’s Fair Legal Access Grants Act – or FLAG Act – would provide $50 million in grants for state and local governments to distribute to community organizations that can assist community members in navigating the complicated legal system when seeking to temporarily disarm someone showing signs of violence.

Councilmember Henry Lo cited the nation’s lapse in gun reform legislation and urged more efforts continue.

“I know that there are some ordinances that may be subject to constitutional challenge, but nonetheless, I think that as a city we need to continue to explore,” he said. “What are the safety measures, safeguards, preventive measures that we can continue to do as a city at our level because while people still remember what happened in Monterey Park on January 1. I think what we do may also encourage other municipal governments to do the same thing and hopefully put pressure on our federal leaders in Congress.”

A full staff report on Monterey Park’s new ordinance can be found at montereypark.ca.gov.

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