San Francisco's Last Gun Shop Calls It Quits | KUOW News and Information

San Francisco's Last Gun Shop Calls It Quits

Oct 27, 2015
Originally published on October 29, 2015 10:03 am

One of the best-selling items right now at the High Bridge Arms gun shop in San Francisco is not a firearm or ammunition, says general manager Steven Alcairo. It's souvenir T-shirts that say "San Francisco's Last Gun Store."

Alcairo says people around the country are buying them to support the shop, which is closing at the end of the month.

"They're blowing out of here. We've been boxing them and sending them off to different states," he says.

High Bridge Arms has been open for 63 years, and it has sentimental value for customers like Steven Walker.

"My wife, she bought her first rifle here. Actually I bought my first handgun here," Walker says. "It's pretty amazing we're losing this shop."

The store announced on Facebook that it would close for "a variety of reasons" — among them, gun regulations in San Francisco. Specifically, new measures the city is currently considering would require the store to videotape gun purchases and report ammunition sales to the police. Alcairo says the store doesn't want to deal with the hassle of these regulations, which have already upset customers.

"We're getting phone calls: 'So if I buy a box of bullets from you, are you going to report us to the police department?' " he says.

The store's closing has riled gun enthusiasts in and outside the city. Customers like Chris Cheng say San Francisco politicians are targeting the gun community, a local minority.

"They just want to make San Francisco a gun-free zone, a gun-free city with no gun shops," Cheng says.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell proposed the new regulations.

"I do believe our city government should be very protective and very restrictive around guns, and I'm not ashamed to say that and won't back down," he says.

Farrell says the proposals are not to blame for closing down the store. He points out that the measures are just proposals. They haven't been voted on. They haven't taken effect.

"So for a store owner to claim that the introduction of this legislation caused the store to close, I would suggest that there are other issues going on," Farrell says.

For instance, the store owner is in his 70s and he has considered going out of business before. Allison Anderman, an attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says this is a classic example of gun regulation being spun to look like the bad guy.

"There is a small but very vocal minority of gun rights advocates who will use something like this to support their position that regulation of guns is bad," she says.

Anderman says a videotaping regulation like this one is not proven to hurt gun sales and is not radical. Videotaping is only required by law in a few places, but it's actually pretty common. Wal-Mart, for example, started doing it a few years ago, and the chain sells more guns than any other retailer in the country.

Customer Chris Cheng says he'll miss High Bridge Arms when it's gone.

"Here in San Francisco, this is, I would say, the only place to really talk about firearms in a community setting," he says.

He'll miss that community. But, he says gun owners in the city will still be able to get firearms. They'll just have to drive a little farther — or order them online.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. San Francisco's last gun shop is closing at the end of this month. It's the only place to shop for firearms in a city that is intensifying its gun regulations. Just why the shop is closing says a lot about the national gun debate. And that's the subject of this report by Sam Harnett.

SAM HARNETT, BYLINE: One of the best-selling items right now at the High Bridge Arms gun shop is not a firearm. And it's not ammunition, either, says general manager Steven Alcairo.

STEVEN ALCAIRO: Ever seen Gap in Christmas time, their T-shirt tables? It looks just like that in here now.

HARNETT: Well, not just like that. There are guns for sale. But right now, they're being upstaged by souvenir shirts that say, San Francisco's last gun store. Alcairo says people around the country are buying them to support the shop.

ALCAIRO: Yeah, they're blowing out of here. We're even boxing them and sending them off to different states.

HARNETT: High Bridge Arms has been open for 63 years. It has sentimental value for customers like Steven Walker.

STEVEN WALKER: My wife, she bought her first rifle here. I actually bought my first handgun here. It's pretty amazing that we're losing this shop, so...

HARNETT: The store announced on Facebook that it would close for a variety of reasons, among them, gun regulations in San Francisco - specifically, new measures the city is currently considering. If passed, they'd require the store to videotape gun purchases and report ammunition sales to the police. General manager Alcairo says the store doesn't want to deal with the hassle of these regulations, which have already upset customers.

ALCAIRO: And we're getting phone calls. So if I buy a box of bullets from you, are you going to report me to the police department?

HARNETT: The store's closing has riled gun enthusiasts in and outside the city. Customers like Chris Cheng say San Francisco politicians are targeting the gun community, a local minority.

CHRIS CHENG: They just want to make San Francisco a gun-free zone, a gun-free city with no gun shops.

MARK FARRELL: I do believe our city government should be very protective and very restrictive around guns. And I'm not ashamed to say that and won't back down.

HARNETT: That's San Francisco supervisor Mark Farrell. He proposed the new regulations. He says they're not to blame for closing down the store. He points out that the measures are just proposals. They haven't been voted on. They haven't taken effect.

FARRELL: So for a store owner to claim that the introduction of this legislation caused the store to close, I would suggest that there were other issues going on.

HARNETT: For instance, the store owner is in his 70s, and he's considered going out of business before. Allison Anderman says this is a classic example of gun regulation being spun to look like the bad guy. She's an attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

ALLISON ANDERMAN: There is a small but very vocal minority of gun rights advocates who will use something like this to support their position that regulation of guns is bad.

HARNETT: Anderman says a videotaping regulation like this one is not proven to hurt gun sales and is not radical. Videotaping is only required by law in a few places, but it's actually pretty common. Wal-Mart, for example, started doing it a few years ago. And the chain megastore sells more guns than any other retailer in the country.

Back at High Bridge Arms, employees are restocking the shelves with ammunition. Much of the store's merchandise has already sold out. It's pretty empty. Customer Chris Cheng looks around wistfully at the nearly-bare gun racks.

CHENG: Here in San Francisco, this is I would say the only place to really talk about firearms in a community setting.

HARNETT: He'll miss that community. But he says gun owners in the city will still be able to get firearms. They'll just have to drive a little farther or order them online. For NPR News, I'm Sam Harnett in San Francisco. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.