You may not believe this but there as a time when San Francisco sold guns.
Yup, during the era when Clint Eastwood was blasting away wayward hippies with his hand cannon, it was quite possible for one to saunter into a gun shop, fill out a few forms and become the proud owner of a brand spanking new Nickle plated 22.
Then the city began clamping down, rapidly emerging as the gun control capital of California. In the last 10 years or so San Francisco has passed gun control laws regulating everything from magazine capacity to allowable types of ammunition to limits on advertising to the manner in which guns must be stored–and beyond.
These laws effectively ran every last gun store out of town save one–High Bridge Arms, which has repeatedly closed and re-opened the store amidst changing and oftentimes restrictive gun laws.
However, it was last years mandate–that gun store owners video tape every transaction and additionally provide an ammunition buyers’ names, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers to the San Francisco Police Department–that broke the will of San Francisco’s last remaining gun shop, shuttering it for good in October 2015.
So San Franciscans can’t legally buy a gun anymore (at least within city limits). Boo-Hoo. There is something the city is allowing the store to do, which has some residents, for better or for worse, not so pleased.
This summer High Bridge Arms will serendipitously re-open as a medical marijuana dispensary called High Bridge. The owner, Sean Killen, plans to operate the dispensary as a nonprofit with a focus on keeping medical cannabis prices low and providing it for free to those who can’t afford it. Many dispensaries in the late 90’s and early 2000’s (and a few in 2016) have done the same, that is, providing homeless or low-income San Francisco residents with “compassion sacks”.
Killen, who is a San Jose native who left the tech sector and entered the cannabis field last fall when he began managing the nearby dispensary Bernal Heights Collective, says corporate pot is coming to lower prices and quality. However, in a Dickensesque twist, Killen is now faced with having his collective closed come June 15 due to the questionable tactics of shady landlord Marty Higgins. And although his application and fee to open High Bridge has been accepted, Killen and his team only have $15,000 (a.k.a not enough), to outfit his new pot shop. Killen is hoping to fundraise the rest, publicly notifying the neighborhood this month in the hopes of garnering local support. All in all, Killen will pay close to $60,000 a year to keep a dispensary open that provides cheap pot to low-income residents.
The landlord, Mr. Takahashi, who purchased the building in 1988 seems to be on board with his property being dedicated to pot smokers, Killen explained. He signed a lease with a stipulation banning firearms, explosives and other flammables being stored in the building — commonly found items in its previous entity.
Any chance a bullet might get mixed in with someone’s bud? Highly unlikely, but the history of High Bridge Arms lingers on.
“We did find a lot of stray bullets in there during renovations,” laughs Killen.
My name is Petey Wheatstraw, also known as Charles Stevens. I’m an avid marijuana smoker, writer, devoted father and non-profit minion– not necessarily in that order. A Chicago native I’ve lived off and on in the Bay Area since 1996. Seven years ago I finally settled here to capture the changing face of our communities.