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.