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 a protracted-but-packed meeting on Tuesday evening, Councilmembers voted to pass legislation that prohibits the open carry of knives, daggers and swords, together with new regulations for the sale of firearms and additional firearm owner responsibilities.

“Right now, there’s no state or local law on the books that would allow the Santa Monica Police Department to have the ability to confiscate these types of weapons when they’re found in the public areas,” said Ben Delfin, Deputy City Attorney, who provided a presentation to Council.

In 2020, there were 52 reported aggravated assaults in which a knife was used. Just one year later, in 2021, the number rose to 71 and increased again in 2022 to 75. Similarly, robberies where a knife was used numbered 20 in 2021 and then rose to 38 in 2022. According to the City, 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.

Moved by Councilmember Phil Brock and seconded by Mayor Pro Tempore Lana Negrete, the proposed addition to Chapter 3.29 of the Santa Monica Municipal Code making the open carry of knives, daggers and swords in public areas prohibited was passed swiftly and unanimously 6-0. Councilmember Jesse Zwick had limited participation in the meeting remotely up to this point, as a result of recently catching Covid, but was absent for the voting on ordinance items.

The second significant armament-related item was presented by Captain Saul Rodriguez of the SMPD. 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.

“This is another ordinance that we believe is extremely important. Back in June of this year, it was asked that we do this and come back within 60 days to present something to you folks,” Rodriguez said.

The City Attorney’s office has since reviewed local firearms regulations and prepared the legislation, which among other things, requires firearm retailers to videotape all firearm sales and provide continuous video and audio surveillance of where guns are stored.

The proposed ordinance would also create additional responsibilities for firearm owners. For example, it would require firearms owners to obtain liability insurance covering losses or damages resulting from any negligent or accidental use of a firearm. In addition, it establishes a requirement to store firearms in a locked container or secured using a firearm safety device when firearms are held in a residence or vehicle within the City of Santa Monica.

Moreover, it prohibits the possession, sale, or transfer of non-serialized, or ghost guns and finally, it would firearm owners to report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours — whereas state law requires the reporting of a lost or stolen firearm to local jurisdiction in five days.

Santa Monica has only one firearm retailer, the Big 5 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 collaborated with the US Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the investigation but unfortunately, as of now, none of the suspects have been identified and the weapons are still outstanding. Moreover, the shooter in the 2013 Santa Monica College killings used a ghost gun.

The motion to move ahead was made by Torosis, seconded by Negrete and passed unanimously 6-0.

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.