Why San Francisco's last remaining gun store is shuttering for good

High Bridge Arms, the last gun shop in San Francisco, has thrown in the towel in the face of mounting restrictions imposed by local lawmakers and voters and organized campaigns calling for its closure.

Jeff Chiu/AP
High Bridge Arms general manager Steve Alcairo reaches into a display case of handguns while being interviewed in San Francisco, Sept. 30. High Bridge Arms, the last gun store in San Francisco, is scheduled to close on Oct. 31.

In a climate of increased gun control regulations and vocal opposition to its business, San Francisco’s last gun store is closing up shop for good.

High Bridge Arms, which has stood on Mission Street in the Bernal Heights neighborhood since the 1950s, has in the last decade faced mounting restrictions imposed by local lawmakers and voters, and weathered organized campaigns calling for its closure.

The breaking point came this summer when a local politician proposed a law that would require High Bridge Arms to record every gun sale on video and hand in a weekly report of ammunition sales to the police, store manager Steve Alcairo said. The shop has 17 cameras as it is, and turns video over to police on request, he told Fox News.

"It's with tremendous sadness and regret that I have to announce we are closing our shop," Mr. Alcairo announced in a Facebook post on Sept. 11. "It has been a long and difficult ride, but a great pleasure to be your last San Francisco gun shop."

High Bridge will close Oct. 31, he said.

California has the strictest gun control regulations in the country. The state requires background checks for all firearms sales and limits handgun purchases to one a month. Gun buyers must be at least 21. Still, Mark Farrell – the city supervisor who introduced the new bill – says more can be done to improve public safety.

“Easy access to guns and ammunition continue to contribute to senseless violent crime here in San Francisco and across the country,” Mr. Farrell said in a statement. “We should do everything in our power to give local law enforcement the additional tools they need to prevent crime and keep our neighborhoods safe.”

He said it was “comical” that High Bridge is blaming its closure on a proposed law still months away from taking effect.

But Alcairo said news of the bill's introduction in July slowed sales because customers wrongly believed their purchases would be recorded and turned over to police. He said he had to lay off three clerks and that sales slumped throughout the summer – when overall gun sales were surging across the state, according to California Department of Justice statistics.

The California DOJ reported 931,000 guns sold last year – three times the number sold in 2004 and the second highest annual number since the department began keeping sales records in 1991.

The store’s closing announcement prompted an outpouring of sympathy and anger from gun enthusiasts, many insisting the new regulations will do little to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms.  

"High Bridge has always taken care of me," said Chris Cheng, a San Francisco resident who won a $100,000 cash prize and a professional marksman contract after winning the History Channel's "Top Shot" competition.

"It's always been a challenge for the store to do business in San Francisco," Mr. Cheng said.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

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