SAN FRANCISCO -- Mayor Dianne Feinstein turned in her .38-caliber revolver today and urged others to follow her example in complying with a handgun ban already being challenged in the courts.
The mayor, who was licensed to carry a concealed weapon, bought the gun in 1976 after a bombing attempt and gun attack on her home. She shelved it when her predecessor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk were shot to death in their City Hall offices in 1980.
'In turning in my handgun I am joining 27 others who (voluntarily) have done so before,' she said while standing before a table with about 50 handguns on it. The others were confiscated by police under various circumstances.
Mayor Feinstein successfully lobbied for the ban narrowly passed by the law-making Board of Supervisors, four of which have filed suit in federal court challenging the ordinance, which took effect two days ago.
She unloaded her pistol and turned it in as a symbolic gesture at a police station at the panhandle of Golden Gate Park on the edge of the Haight-Ashbury district.
'We are asking individuals to simply unload their gun, put it in a box or a bag and turn it in,' the mayor said.
She promised that handguns would not be traced to their owners and that anyone wanting to turn in a gun had simply to call police department. 'If the people take note and follow suit, she would be delighted,' said press secretary Tom Eastham.
The mayor's gun had been used as ammunition in an anti-handgun-ban campaign by the National Rifle Association, which Wednesday won a crucial court action.
The association said the San Francisco must now prove that its new law is legal.
The state Court of Appeal refused to issue a stay holding up the ban, but ordered city officials to appear in court Sept. 22 to show cause why the city should not be considered in violation of the state pre-emption law.
Opponents of the ban, including four members of the Board of Supervisors which passed the ordinance, have argued that the city is pre-empted from enacting laws regulating handguns because the state already has laws which control the licensing and registration of firearms.
In Washington, J. Warren Cassidy, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, called the court action 'a major step to knocking out the ban.'
'Our attorneys maintained the ban violated several provisions of California law, including the state's gun control pre-emption statute,' Cassidy said.
'Now, it is up to San Francisco to legally justify this atrocious ordinance.'
The ban gives citizens a 90-day grace period in which to surrender their handguns. A decision on the law's legality was expected prior to that time.
The NRA filed a suit July 19 to challenge the ban.
So far, police report receiving only 15 handguns from among thousands, which are registered with the department.