RICHMOND -- The city may be poised to jump into the national gun debate but exactly how remains unclear, and local law enforcement officials cautioned Wednesday that the approach may be misguided.
The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-1 to direct staff to develop a plan to "draft initiatives on gun control" and "support gun control laws."
"Our objective is to stop young people from getting killed in the city of Richmond," said Councilman Corky Boozé, the motion's author.
But Boozé's measure drew criticism from law enforcement leaders Wednesday who said local government's can't supersede state law.
"Our department is currently enforcing every available state and federal law related to gun violence," said police Chief Chris Magnus. "Unfortunately, our challenges in Richmond run deeper than what can be solved with new city ordinances."
In his directive, Boozé called on city staff to draft a local ordinance to "support strict gun control laws and federal and state funding to support them," among other actions, including a gun-buyback program.
Contra Costa County deputy district attorney Barry Grove said state gun laws are already among the toughest in the nation. "You can't create a local ordinance that is inconsistent with state law," Grove wrote in an email. "Also, any local gun-related ordinance would, at best, be an infraction or a misdemeanor, with penalties far less than existing state law."
The motion comes on the heels of a bloody month in Richmond, including two shootings in Parchester Village in a 48-hour period last week that left two teenagers dead and a 24-year-old man wounded.
Lori Reese-Brown, a staff member in City Manager Bill Lindsay's office, delivered a presentation outlining Richmond's struggles with gun violence and suggesting what she said should be a "citywide" effort to reduce gun proliferation and violence.
"Children and adults are afraid to visit friends and family in other parts of the city," Reese-Brown said.
Councilman Tom Butt was the lone dissenter in Tuesday's vote.
"I appreciate the seriousness of the situation, but I would really like more specifics. Richmond has done about the most we can do," Butt said, adding that the city has no jurisdiction over state and federal gun laws.
"Everything I have heard mentioned is a violation of some law on the books," Butt said.
Boozé was undeterred, saying that he wanted staff to "come up with an ordinance, whether it deals with bullet (sales), AK-47s or young people stopped with guns in their cars."
Several residents joined Butt in expressing skepticism.
Resident Don Gosney said Boozé's approach was too vague.
"I'm unsure what an anti-noise ordinance has to do with this," Gosney said, noting another provision in the proposal. "The inevitable court challenges will cost the city money."
But many residents, including some who have lost loved ones to gun violence, expressed support. Councilman Nat Bates said he hoped staff could craft something the council could consider in the coming months.
"Doing nothing is not an option," Bates said. "Let's just try something."
The specter of the Parchester Village shootings hung over the proceedings. Boozé' is a longtime advocate for the small housing tract, which was one of the first in the city to sell houses to blacks in the 1950s.
On April 18, Mercedes Williams, 19, and her brother Airian Holly, 16, were standing outside a home with a group of others in the 4100 block of McGlothen Way when two men walked up at 9:44 p.m. and began firing, according to Richmond police.
Two nights later, in what police believe was a related shooting, a 24-year-old man was shot several times as he sat in his car in the 600 block of Harrison Street. The victim hit the gas to escape and came to rest on McGlothen Way, near where the teens had been killed. He is expected to survive.