Big 5 Sporting Goods store is the only location you can purchase firearms from in Santa Monica and even then they only offer a handful. Credit: Scott Snowden

In what will almost certainly be a full and potentially long-running Council meeting this evening, council will look to cut knife possession, take aim at gun sales and build up housing rules.

The agenda also includes a host of council discussion items covering labor protests, needle exchanges and appointments to commissions.

Staff are proposing a prohibition on the open carry of knives, daggers, and swords in public areas. According to the staff report, in 2020, there were 52 reported aggravated assaults in which a knife was used. In 2021, the number rose to 71 and increased again in 2022 to 75. Similarly, robberies with a knife as the weapon numbered 20 in 2021 and then rose to 38 in 2022. The report goes on to say that there are many factors that have contributed to the increase in the use of edged weapons, including the ease of obtaining them by individuals of all ages.

“Unlike firearms, knives and other edged weapons like swords are easy to obtain and, unfortunately, to misuse,” Santa Monica Police Chief Ramon Batista told the Daily Press, adding, “Other potential weapons like pointed sticks or stakes can be sourced from pretty much anywhere and used to injure others.

“Earlier this year we had an individual arm himself with a sharpened stick and use it to injure multiple victims before being taken into custody. This update to the municipal code gives officers the authority to stop someone carrying a banned weapon and possibly intervene prior to being used to hurt innocent victims.”

Due to the increasing frequency and resulting challenges in addressing these types of crime, the City hopes to benefit from this ordinance in a number of ways including, deterring the open use of edged weapons in public, enhancing public safety and comfort throughout the city. Moreover, it will give law enforcement a valuable tool to immediately seize edged or pointed weapons that may be used to commit a violent crime.

The second item on tonight’s agenda concerning potentially lethal weapons will deal with additional regulations concerning the sale and ownership responsibilities of firearms. According to the City, Santa Monica has only one firearm retailer, the Big Five sporting goods store at 3121 Wilshire Blvd.

During the civil unrest on May 31, 2020, a group of individuals stole large amounts of property from the Big Five store, including 29 rifles and shotguns. Detectives from the Police Department collaborated with the US Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the investigation. Unfortunately however, as of now, none of the suspects have been identified and the weapons are still outstanding.

On June 13, 2023, Council unanimously approved a 16-item sponsored by Mayor Gleam Davis and Councilmembers Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick, which directed the City Manager and the City Attorney to return to Council within 60 days with an ordinance that restricts the sale of firearms within Santa Monica and proposes additional gun owner responsibilities.

Consequently, the City Attorney’s office has reviewed local firearms regulations and prepared the ordinance, which among other things, requires firearm retailers to videotape all firearm sales and provide continuous video and audio surveillance of where guns are stored, imposes additional safe storage requirements and requires liability insurance for firearm owners and prohibits the possession, sale, or transfer of ghost guns.

A pair of items will return for their second readings tonight including a second reading and adoption of an amendment to the text of the zoning ordinance to provide incentives for certain housing projects that filed an application prior to implementation of the city’s 6th cycle (2021-2029) housing element. There will be a second reading of the ordinance to prohibit the use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers and enforce the sole use of electric ones instead.

A veritable wealth of discussion items have been added to the agenda, including a request that the city declare support for Unite Here Local 11 in its conflict with local hotels (Torosis and Zwick), exploration of new eviction protections for renters (Torosis, Zwick, Davis), an analysis of the ongoing needle exchange program (Davis, Negrete, Brock), an explanation of housing density rules (Brock, de la Torre and Parra) and the appointment of formerly homeless individual to the Santa Monica Housing Authority Board (Brock, de la Torre and Parra).

Council meets at City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m.

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.