Fifteen months after the same proposal was shot down by a 3-2 vote, the council voted 3-2 to have city staff bring back the plan for a first reading.
The difference was Councilwoman Patricia Dillard, who replaced Bill Baber last November. Baber — who endorsed Dillard — opposed the plan in April 2022.
Dillard, a former member of the city’s Police Oversight Board, joined council members Jack Shu and Colin Parent (voting remotely) in backing the measure. As they did in 2022, Mayor Mark Arapostathis and Councilwoman Laura Lothian opposed the idea.
La Mesa would join the cities of San Diego, Solana Beach, Del Mar and Encinitas with a so-called “safe storage” ordinance.
Twenty-nine people addressed the issue Tuesday night, with all but six opposing the measure.
He noted the regulation was modeled after ones in San Diego and elsewhere.
“But then Shu said it only applies when a person is not home,” Schwartz told Times of San Diego. “He said it would help prevent suicide, though. That will not prevent any kind of suicide because the person who attempts suicide would be home — thus not requiring a gun to be locked up.”
Schwartz, who rallied his group’s members to attend the meeting, said 75 or so showed up.
“Shu seemed to struggle with his own proposal and didn’t seem to understand what was going on,” Schwartz said via email. “I don’t think he can be trusted to make good public policy.”
Dillard said the ordinance she resurrected with Shu aims to fill a “simple gap” in state law.
Democrat Dillard said the proposed La Mesa law would make sure burglars couldn’t steal guns and keep children safe from such firearms.
Lothian, a Republican, said the proposal had one target: “law-abiding La Mesa residents.”
“We should be strengthening our self-protection laws, not weakening them,” Lothian said, claiming that the law wouldn’t allow adults to “swiftly retrieve their own firearms to save their own lives.”
In fact, the proposal carries two exceptions to the keep-guns-locked requirement: “(1) The Firearm is carried on the body of a person who is an authorized user of the Firearm. (2) The Firearm is in the immediate control of the Authorized User so that the Person can readily retrieve and use the Firearm as if carried on the Person’s body.”
Public speakers highlighted other issues.
“This ordinance won’t do either,” he said, slamming what he called “faulty reasoning” and declaring the law is not “valid, viable or enforceable.”
In her comments before voting, Dillard said the ordinance wouldn’t require police inspection of homes — no more than the fire department would survey La Mesa homes mandated to have smoke or fire alarms. (Mayor Arapostathis didn’t explain his no vote.)
Several speakers, also assuming the law wouldn’t allow bedside firearms, brought locks and safes to show the council, declaring how opening them and preparing the gun for use would take too long to ward off a home invader.
That led several critics of the law to claim it hurts the poor and vulnerable who can’t afford a biometric safe. (A male member of the council piped up when asked about the price of such safes: “$189.”)
Brianna Coston, a member of the La Mesa-Spring Valley school board, wore a “No Guns in School” button and was one of several people to recount a friend’s gun suicide.
Another woman lauded the Shu-Dillard proposal as an “incremental step” toward gun safety.
“Even one life saved is worth it,” she said, adding that “we can’t just throw up our hands” and say nothing can be done.
Faulting that argument was Kenneth Van Tassell, a 36-year La Mesa resident who said similar logic would lead to steak knives and medicine cabinets needing to be locked.
If “saving one life” is the standard, “we would be living in a different society — like Communist China,” he said, calling it an “absurd standard and an absurd law.”
Lauren Cazares, a member of the city’s Police Oversight Board and a candidate for La Mesa City Council, said her parents were NRA members and her grandfather was a gun collector.
But Cazares said the proposed law would reduce firearms thefts. She urged the law be created now “rather than waiting for a tragedy.”
Among the 23 against the proposal was a man who blamed liberals for “going too far on everything. You seek to control our lives in every way you can. This is just one example.”
Steve Merritt added: “An unenforceable law can never be a justifiable law.”
A woman who goes by the name Truth (with a bomb illustration sewn into her shirt) also blasted a companion proposal for a public education program on the storage law, calling it “government propaganda.”
A man identified on the Facebook video as Blake Beckham waved a yellow training gun (with no bullet chamber) and quoted the Second Amendment about the right to keep arms and said “there are not words before or after that tell me HOW I must keep.”
Then he angrily told the council that if the ordinance were passed, he would “work my ass off” to oust “every one of you. Is that understood?”