S.F. Police Still Enforcing Obsolete Anti-BB Gun Ordinance

Categories: Crime, Law & Order
Last month we wrote about how the San Francisco Police Department considered possession of a BB gun within city limits to be illegal -- even though the District Attorney and Public Defender acknowledged that the city's anti-BB gun ordinance has been obsolete since 2004. That's when a state law regarding BB gun possession took effect; interestingly, that '04 law was passed with the overt intention of doing away with odd, persnickety ordinances like San Francisco's.

Well, there's the law and there's the law. A recent police report described officers from Taraval Station stopping a driver for an alleged road rage incident, then citing him for possessing an air pistol. A sergeant familiar with the case told SF Weekly that the citation was not due to the man brandishing the pistol or employing it during his aggressive driving -- but merely for possessing a BB gun, which the police still consider illegal within city limits (you are allowed to possess a real gun, by the way). 

The wheels of justice move slowly, it would seem. Unless you're toting a BB gun.

Incidentally, state laws allow anyone to own a BB gun, so long as he or she doesn't exhibit it in public, discharge it recklessly, or carry it onto school ground or other sensitive areas. Meanwhile, according to Section 602 of San Francisco's Police Municipal Code, anyone in the city is forbidden from possessing any "toys projecting missiles by air or gas" within city limits. Yes, the police are within their rights if they take your air pistol out of your gun locker, but leave your M-16 rifle.

But just because a local ordinance has been overridden -- for five years -- by a state law specifically penned to override it doesn't mean the cops can stop enforcing it.

"Until the chief of police tells us not to cite on this offense, we will continue to do the citations," confirms the sergeant.

He has no choice. It's the law. Even though it isn't.

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