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City Council Cracks Down on Knives and Guns

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By Jorge Casuso

August 28, 2023 -- The City Council last week banned persons from openly carrying large blade knives, daggers and swords in public and imposed additional regulations for gun retailers and owners.

The two new laws are meant to help police crack down on a growing number of local crimes that involve the use of knives and firearms, police officials told the Council last Tuesday.

Last year, a knife was used in 75 reported aggravated assaults, up from 71 in 2021 and 52 in 2020, according to crime data. The use of knives in robberies also has risen -- from 20 in 2021 to 38 last year.

"We are seeing a proliferation of knives and other sharp objects," said Mayor Gleam Davis. "We've also has a report of a machete here and there."

The new ordinance -- approved unanimously -- is expected to deter the "open use of edged weapons in public," give law enforcement a "valuable tool to immediately seize" the weapons and reduce aggravated assaults, according to staff.

There are currently no City, State or Federal laws that address openly displaying or carrying "fixed blade knives, daggers, swords, sharpened sticks and other edged weapons," staff said.

In California, it is legal to own and carry folding pocket knives and fixed blade knives, which include knives used for hunting and tactical combat, Bowie-style blades, daggers, machetes, kukris (a type of short sword) and swords.

As a result, a police officer in California can only advise an individual openly carrying an edged weapon "of the safety concerns for other members of the public, except in the cases where there is evidence of criminal activity," according to staff.

Knives -- unlike firearms -- are easy to obtain by individuals of all ages without requiring a background check.

The dangerous mix of legal knives and illegal drugs is largely responsible for a surge in stabbings, mainly among the homeless, police have said ("Why Homeless Knife Attacks Have Increased in Santa Monica," March 16, 2023).

On Tuesday, the Council also unanimously approved a cutting edge gun law that places restrictions on firearm sales and ownership.

The measure bans firearm retailers from displaying guns and requires them to record the sale of firearms and ammunition and store firearms in a secure manner.

The city's only licensed gun retailer -- Big 5 Sporting Goods -- had 29 rifles and shotguns stolen during the May 2020 Santa Monica riots, according to police.

"As of now, none of the suspects have been identified and the firearms are still outstanding," staff said in the report.

In 2022, police booked 43 real and 28 fake firearms as evidence, found 21 real and 11 fake firearms, took one lost firearm report, and took theft reports for five real and two fake stolen firearms.

The new ordinance establishes obligations for owners to safely store firearms in residences and vehicles and requires them to report a lost or stolen firearm within 48 hours of discovery.

It also bans the possession, sale, or transfer of non-serialized weapons, which are commonly known as “ghost guns.”

The law also requires gun owners to carry liability insurance, establishes a voluntary firearm commitment program restricts firearms on City-owned property and other locations.

The ordinance was passed with no Council discussion.

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