San Juan Capistrano a Wild West city? No, it ain't, the City Council said Tuesday.
In a 3-1 vote, it shot down a proposal by councilman Derek Reeve to allow firearms in the city's 17 parks and hundreds of acres of open spaces.
"This is a family-friendly-oriented city, and that means no weapons in the parks," said City Councilman Larry Kramer, who called the proposal "ridiculous" and a "waste of time."
In his first year on the dais, Reeve said it is his responsibility to defend more lenient state and federal constitutions. "My concern is that this is a constitutional issue," he said.
Local ordinances, Reeve contended, should not preempt California law, which allows residents to openly carry guns in most places except government buildings, including schools.
Allowing individuals to protect themselves would also Reeve said.
His peers, however, predicted the opposite.
“I don’t think I’d feel safer in this town if everyone had a weapon. There’s some people in this town don’t like me!" Kramer joked. He qualified his remark by saying that at 10 years old he started hunting rabbits and squirrels on his family's farm, then later spent 30 years in the military handling big weapons.
Kathy Hooper, chairwoman of San Juan's Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Commission, said the advisory board decided Monday night to recommend a "no" vote. People enjoying their recreational time shouldn't be forced to worry about others toting guns.
"If someone walked around that park with a gun, it no longer becomes a safe place," she said.
Mayor Sam Allevato said there is "overwhelming" public opposition to Reeve's proposal, which drew support from open-carry advocates in neighboring cities.
Lake Forest resident Vincent Burke said he agrees with Reeve that citizens have a right to arm themselves, especially for self-defense purposes. "Police are only there for public protection, not personal protection," he said.
He and others debated whether a municipality can legally restrict where guns can be carried. San Juan Capistrano's attorney, Omar Sandoval, said that as long as the City Council is not prohibiting residents from carrying guns or "from playing with guns" it's in no position to be sued.
In his closing remarks, Reeve reminded a concerned local businessman that merchants can opt to ban guns on their premises.
Larry Thomas, the vice president of , said he didn't want to "live in the type of environment" where he'd have to worry about customers walking in for a transaction while carrying a handgun.
"We’re very sensitive to firearms," he said. "We're actually sensitive to sunglasses, hoods ... they really ring bells in my business. It worries me greatly."
Reeve's proposal pertained only to the open carry of unloaded weapons. Orange County residents who want to carry loaded, concealed weapons must obtain a special permit from the sheriff.
Last month, Reeve voted against a to provide police services in San Juan Capistrano as its done since 1961. He said he disagreed with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens' strict concealed-weapons policies.
Multiple posts on his Facebook page show Reeve's high regard for the right to bear arms.
"To keep it San Juan, I can lead a horse to water, but I can't make it drink," Reeve said in reaction to Tuesday's vote.
(Councilwoman Laura Freese was absent from Tuesday's meeting.)