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By Shawn Raymundo
A council vote on whether to declare San Clemente as a Second Amendment Sanctuary was tabled to early June, giving residents an opportunity to view a draft of the proposed resolution from Mayor Pro Tem Gene James.
James, the architect of the nonbinding resolution that’s meant to reinforce the rights of San Clemente’s gun owners, submitted the wording to the city clerk’s office Tuesday, May 18, hours before the council met to discuss it in front of the public.
“In fairness to everyone who wants to review this, I would move that we defer this to our meeting on June 1, and table it until then,” James said after the council heard from numerous individuals who raised objections to the resolution itself, as well as the inability to read it ahead of time.
Councilmembers on Tuesday debated over the resolution, which claims, among other things, that the state’s laws on guns are “over-restrictive,” and that legislation from a Texas congresswoman “would place even harsher restrictions on citizens of the United States.”
“California’s laws regulating firearms and ammunition are over-restrictive, and have impaired, and will continue to impair, the free flow of commerce among and between the State of California and other states, and the ability of citizens to lawfully exercise their rights with immediate adverse impacts on the City and its residents,” the resolution states.
It goes onto to also reference HR 127, a bill introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) who’s proposing to establish licensing and registration requirements on firearms, as well as ban “certain ammunition and large capacity ammunition feeding devices.”
James’ proposed resolution declares that the House bill, if passed, “would greatly infringe on the principles upheld in both the United States Constitution and the California Constitution and would again do nothing to protect law abiding citizens.”
At the onset to the council’s discussion Tuesday night, Mayor Kathy Ward asked James to shelve the item, arguing that it’s not specifically a city issue and that such a declaration would be divisive.
“I just don’t think this rises to the need that our arms are being taken from us and the need to do this,” Ward had said. “I don’t think anyone on this council is against the U.S. Constitution or any of the amendments … This is outside of our purview. And it’s a personal thing that is being asked of this council to do. It’s not a city issue.”
Defending his resolution, James said it is “about the Constitution of the United States” before stating that he thinks that the Second Amendment rights of U.S. citizens “are under attack.”
James later addressed the members of the public who have voiced opposition to the resolution, noting that gun rights advocates love the country as much as those who support firearms restrictions. He then suggested that they launch a campaign to repeal the Second Amendment.
“I would suggest that if people have so many issues with the Second Amendment, that they start a grassroots campaign to repeal the Second Amendment—amendments have been repealed under the Constitution—but I don’t see anyone doing that,” he said.
Councilmember Steven Knoblock, a proponent of James’s resolution, argued that it’s not a partisan issue, nor does it represent extremism—as some opponents alluded to. He added that he’s seen a “major national effort to diminish or rescind the Second Amendment.”
During the back-and-froth debate, Councilmember Chris Duncan noted that while his remarks weren’t meant to criticize James, they were critical of his resolution. He stated that he’s not a fan of nonbinding resolutions when there’s other matters for the council to address.
Duncan also expressed worry about the perception the passage of such a resolution would have on San Clemente, particularly at a time when the economy is bouncing back from the pandemic.
“Even though it’s ineffectual, there’s certainly a perception that could come from it, and frankly I’m a little worried for our businesses as we enter this economic boom that we hope is going to happen,” he said. “I am concerned about the perception this could bring to our town, about whether people might want to visit a town like that that has passed a resolution like that.”
Prior to calling for the vote, the council had also debated whether the resolution needed to first be publicized as an attachment at to the council’s agenda packet before they can consider its passage.
“It’s very problematic to approve a resolution the public has not seen,” Ward said.
City Attorney Scott Smith said that a councilmember reading the resolution aloud during the meeting would suffice. He advised though that by doing so, the council should open another round of public comments to the audience members who had already spoken on the proposal earlier in the night.
After hearing James read the resolution, many in the audience who got up to speak again opined that the wording was confusing and at times didn’t make any sense. The comments prompted James to request that the discussion be continued to the council’s June 1 meeting.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.