NEEDLES, Calif. (KTXL) — In a city just shy of 5,000 people, the old west desert town of Needles was once known for its railroad but is making a new name for itself as a haven for gun owners.
Needles Mayor Jeff Williams says the people he represents proudly bear arms and no state law is going to stifle that right.
“So, it was time to make a stand and a statement and start helping with a little bit of pushback against some of these state laws that are just too restrictive,” Mayor Williams said.
City leaders recently passed a resolution declaring the San Bernardino town a Second Amendment sanctuary.
“All we’re trying to do is protect our constitutional rights, which they should be thankful for,” Williams said.
The symbolic move hopes to send a mighty message to those working in Sacramento.
Leaders in Needles hope to inspire a coalition of Second Amendment sanctuary cities so that they can bring their concerns to state lawmakers together.
The desert city hugs the borders of Arizona and Nevada, where gun laws are much looser and concealed carry permits are easier to obtain.
But don’t think about bringing those out-of-state carries to California. It’s illegal and Mayor Williams says it’s taking a toll on tourism.
“We’ve heard from a lot of our neighbors in Arizona they won’t come into our town or utilize our restaurants and the other things we have here because the concealed weapon, they won’t recognize it,” he said. “This the only state, from what I understand, that won’t recognize a border state’s concealed weapon permits.”
And under the recently passed Proposition 63, people in Needles can’t buy ammunition from their Silver and Copper State neighbors then bring it back home. Instead, they have to drive at least a hundred miles to the nearest California gun shop for their purchase.
“And so it’s chipping away at our Second Amendment rights,” Rocklin Armory owner Terry Fong said.
Fong says it’s becoming more and more difficult to sell firearms in California.
“We can only sell a certain amount of guns, certain types of guns and a lot of manufacturers have been getting out of California because of that. So we have limited firearms that we can sell,” Fong said.
He says his customers are frustrated and would like to see Placer County follow in Needles’ footsteps, as would Gun Owners of California Executive Director Sam Paredes.
“The Second Amendment is the ignored constitutional right by many courts and, certainly, state legislators,” Paredes said. “And we think when people cannot protect themselves, they’re in danger.”
The 19-year-old gunman who sent festival-goers running for their lives last year in Gilroy didn’t buy his semi-automatic weapon in California. He wasn’t old enough. But he did make the purchase legally in Nevada.
That’s just one of the reasons gun control advocates are calling Needles’ sanctuary status dangerous.
The Brady Campaign’s Sacramento co-chair Rebecca Gonzales says strict gun laws are necessary to prevent the next mass shooting.
“The whole goal is to protect the public and public safety. So, I think that is worth it. Reducing casualties from gun violence is worth some extra paperwork,” she said.
Gonzales notes the majority of Californians support strict gun control, the very reform the city of Needles wants lifted.
“It’s a concern because people need to follow these laws because they do protect the public,” Gonzales said.
Back in Needles, Mayor Williams — a former San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputy himself — says the gun control laws on the books will continue to be enforced. But he and other city leaders are asking for an exemption from what they view as an unconstitutional regulation.
“You know, we’re not asking for, like I said, constitutional carry or the Wild West or any of that craziness. We just want to be respected and understand that our rights were given from God,” Williams said. “And it’s the Constitution, you know, you have to obey the Constitution. That’s the laws you have to enforce first and foremost.”