The NRA is threatening to sue the city of Sunnyvale if voters pass Measure C, a strict gun-control measure that the mayor says he was inspired to enforce after the Newtown, Conn., shootings. The NRA claims the measure violates Second Amendment rights. Marianne Favro reports.
Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri paid no attention to gun laws until last Dec. 14 -- the day 26 people died in the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting.
"We need to do something," said Spitaleri, 69, a retired Palo Alto fire captain who was born in the South Bronx. "And I got angry, and I said, that's enough. When do we stop?"
Enter Measure C, a proposal that will go before Sunnyvale voters on Nov. 5. The measure has attracted support from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose major metropolis is nearly 3,000 miles away from the heart of this Silicon Valley city known for its plethora of engineers and uninspired tract housing.
If approved, Measure C would give Sunnyvale some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. The measure requires Sunnyvale gun owners to report firearms thefts to the police within 48 hours, lock up their guns at home and get rid of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Gun dealers would have to keep logs of ammunition sales.
Spitaleri was inspired to spearhead the measure after he signed onto a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns while attending a mayors conference in Washington, D.C., in 2006. Bloomberg co-chairs that coalition, along with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
Bloomberg also just contributed $3,000 to the Sunnyvale gun-control campaign, which is a nice plus, Spitaleri said, adding that he doesn't know Bloomberg personally.
The Yes on Measure C campaign has raised at least $8,000 so far. And the "no" group has just $400 in its coffers. None of that money comes from the National Rifle Association, according to Dan Walsh, treasurer for the pro-gun group.
Despite its lack of financial backing, the NRA is threatening to sue to stop Sunnyvale's measure, saying it violates the Second Amendment. An attorney for the group has suggested that it would pursue litigation all the way up to the Supreme Court.
"Sunnyvale taxpayers should consider whether they want to foot the legal bill to push the social agenda of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose gun control advocacy group is behind Measure C," NRA attorney Chuck Michel said in a statement on the group's website.
Part of the reason the "no" group doesn't like the measure, is that backers say Sunnyvale is already safe enough, and doesn't need extra laws. "There is no urgent problem which requires an emergency action such as this ballot measure," according to the argument against Measure C.
According to FBI statistics, Sunnyvale has far fewer violent crimes that other cities with about the same population of 140,000. Sunnyvale reported 150 violent crimes including three homicides in 2011. Compare that to comparable-sized cities of Concord, which had 430 violent crimes and seven homicides; Corona, which had 430 violent crimes and two homicides; and Elk Grove, which had 523 violent crimes and three homicides, all reported two years ago.
That argument doesn't hold water with the gun-control advocates. Newtown had a low crime rate. So did other cities where gunmen have pulled out firearm and blasted away others in the seemingly safe suburbs.
"We're a safe city, but it needs to start somewhere," Spitaleri said. "It's just like the ban on plastic bags -- it started somewhere."
Eric Fisher, who owns U.S. Firearms Company in Sunnyvale, stands with the NRA philosophy. He fears the measure will drive gun sales out of town.
"It's real important to us that we deal with the criminal and the mentally ill component of what's wrong, because it directly affects our business," Fisher said. "I think it's kind of a 'big government' mentality on the small level."
Spitaleri said it's precisely the "small level" where he wants to start. The changes, he said, need to "go from the ground up and not top down."
"Life has to be more valuable than what we're treating it," he said. "And I think this is where we start."