Possession of certain extra-lethal bullets would be banned in San Francisco under a proposal expected to pass the Board of Supervisors today, even as a legal challenge to a prior ammo-sales ban proceeds.
Hollow-point bullets that expand into jagged metallic petals on impact, as well as bullets intended solely for “law enforcement or military agencies,” would be banned locally under legislation introduced by Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Malia Cohen in the wake of the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn.
Exactly what rounds would be subject to the ban would be up to the Police Department, which would create a list of banned ammo if the law passes.
California state law already bans the sale, use and possession of “unreasonably dangerous” ammunition, including rounds designed to pierce body armor. And a 2007 city law bans sales of all hollow-point ammunition.
Violators would face either a misdemeanor or an infraction, punishable by jail time or a $1,000 fine. The law also would apply to people traveling through San Francisco on U.S. Highway 101 or Interstate Highway 80.
Yet police say such ammo is very rarely used in San Francisco gun violence. The SFPD crime lab’s last recorded incident involving such rounds was six years ago, according to police Sgt. Michael Andraychak.
Gun violence in San Francisco has been on an overall downward pattern since 2007, but tighter restrictions on ammo are part of a nationwide response to the carnage at Sandy Hook, where 20 first-graders and six adults were killed by a gunman with an assault rifle.
Sales of all hollow-point rounds — bullets designed to flatten on impact and be more lethal, but also not travel beyond the target — were banned in San Francisco in 2007 by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom. But the National Rifle Association filed a suit in 2008 to overturn the ban.
That suit was dismissed after a judge ruled that the ban on sales within The City doesn’t prevent people from acquiring such ammo elsewhere. But the case has been appealed.
Gun advocates called the new proposal vague and vowed legal action. International rules of warfare ban the use of hollow points, Gene Hoffman of the Calguns Foundation noted, while state Fish and Game Department rules ban the use of anything but hollow points while hunting.
Meanwhile, San Francisco police use .40-caliber hollow-point ammunition, which would remain available for purchase by civilians.