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The last gun store in San Francisco is closing doors for good

The only gun store in San Francisco is shuttering for good, saying it can no longer operate in the city’s political climate of increased gun control regulations and vocal opposition to its business.

“It’s with tremendous sadness and regret that I have to announce we are closing our shop,” High Bridge Arms manager Steve 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.”

Alcairo said the breaking point came this summer when a local politician proposed a law that would require High Bridge Arms to video record every gun sale and submit a weekly report of ammunition sales to the police. If passed, the law would join several local gun control ordinances on the books in a city still scarred by the 1993 murder of eight in a downtown high-rise and the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

“I’m not doing that to our customers. Enough is enough,” Alcairo said. “Buying a gun is a constitutionally protected right. Our customers shouldn’t be treated like they’re doing something wrong.”

The announcement prompted an outpouring of sympathy and anger online from gun enthusiasts _ and a steady stream of customers eager to take advantage of going-out-of-business prices.

The new rifles lining the store’s walls are quickly dwindling, and the handguns in the glass cases are going fast. So are T-shirts that boast in English and Chinese that High Bridge is “The Last San Francisco Gun Store.”

For years, the High Bridge Arms weathered mounting restrictions imposed by local lawmakers and voters, who passed a handgun ban in 2005 that a judge later struck down. The gun store increasingly stood out in the gentrifying Bernal Heights neighborhood of hot restaurants, trendy bars and a chic marijuana dispensary, while weathering organized campaigns calling for its closure.

High Bridge will close Oct. 31, Alcairo said.

Supervisor Mark Farrell said he introduced the latest bill to help police combat violent crime in the city. “Anything that makes San Francisco safer, I support,” he said.

Farrell said the bill hasn’t been voted on, and he doesn’t understand why the store is closing now. He said it was “comical” that the High Bridge is blaming its closure on a proposed law still months away from taking effect.

Alcairo said news coverage of the bill’s introduction in July slowed sales considerably 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. The store’s summer slump comes amid an overall gun sales surge in 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.

In the end, Alcairo said, he and the High Bridge Arms owner tired of the continued opposition and mountains of paperwork required by the San Francisco Police Department, state Department of Justice and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Alcairo grew up near the store and says he is angry and disappointed with San Francisco.

“This is the city that defended gay marriage and fights for unpopular causes like medical marijuana,” he said. “Where’s my support?”

Champion pistol shooter Bob Chow opened the store in 1952, four years after competing for the United States in the summer Olympics in London. Chow sold the store to Andy Takahashi in 1988. Chow died in 2003. Takahashi, who also owns the building that houses the store, declined to comment.

Alcairo said the owner shouldn’t have a problem attracting another type of business in economically booming San Francisco.

The quirky city fixture attracted gun enthusiasts from around the world, many posing in photos with Alcairo and his pistol-packing clerks. Alcairo said professional athletes would visit the store when playing in San Francisco for the novelty of buying a weapon _ and a T-shirt _ from the city’s last gun store.

“High Bridge has always taken care of me,” said Chris Cheng, a San Francisco resident who calls it “my home store.” Cheng 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,” Cheng said.

Meth lab discovered in Wal-mart bathroom

A restroom at a Wal-Mart in eastern Indiana has been closed indefinitely after an employee discovered a working meth lab inside.

State police say a Wal-Mart employee alerted police after seeing a man he described as suspicious enter the restroom late one night with a backpack and leave without it. The Star Press reports that members of a state police meth suppression team removed the dangerous chemicals.

Delaware County Health Department inspectors closed the restroom and a nearby women’s restroom until they could be “decontaminated” by a professional cleaning company.

State police say people who make methamphetamine are leaving “the deadly explosive chemicals in public places to return later to get the finished product,” rather than risk explosions and contamination at their own homes.

Wisconsin closes nude beach on weekdays

Wisconsin authorities on March 19 said they will shut down one of nation’s most popular nude beaches on weekdays because of failed efforts to curtail sex and drugs on the sandbar and surrounding woods.

Nudists from around the country have been traveling to the public beach on the Wisconsin River near Mazomanie, about 25 miles northwest of Madison, for decades as word spread that prosecutors in liberal Dane County wouldn’t go after anyone for showing skin. But, says the state, visitors haven’t stopped at just stripping down. They’ve been slipping off into the woods for trysts and drugs.

Authorities say that’s crossing the line, but they haven’t been able to stop the shenanigans. Their frustration reached a tipping point March 19, when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced it will close the beach, the islands immediately off it and the surrounding woods to the public on weekdays, when wardens say troublemakers tend to operate unseen. The closures begin immediately. The area will remain open on weekends, though.

Bob Morton, executive director of the Austin, Texas-based Naturist Action Committee, which lobbies on behalf of nudists, has visited the beach several times. He criticized the DNR for not consulting with beachgoers before closing the area.

“Honestly, we’re on their side when it comes to enforcing things that are lewd and lascivious,” Morton said. “There’s something to be said about consulting the users of the place. There’s got to be more to this somewhere.”

Nate Kroeplin, who supervises DNR law enforcement in Dane County, said wardens reviewed data on citations and determined most violations happen on weekdays, when fewer people are around to police each other’s behavior. Of the 92 citations wardens issued for disorderly conduct or drugs in the beach area between 2008 and 2012, 83 were given on weekdays, he said.

“Obviously we’re disappointed when we have to shut any portion of our property down,” he said. “But our ultimate goal is to have a safe place anybody can feel comfortable using. And with the current activity going on down there, that’s just not the case.”

The DNR purchased the area in 1949 in an effort to open up more land for public hunting, fishing and recreation. Nudists claimed the beach as their own, though, emboldened by local prosecutors’ indifference. Wisconsin law makes exposing one’s genitals a misdemeanor, but a long line of Dane County district attorneys have said naked people must cause some kind of disturbance before they can be prosecuted. The DNR estimates as many as 70,000 people, some from as far away as Florida, have visited the beach some summers.

The agency closed the area at night and banned beach camping in the late 1990s. Authorities also installed a gate blocking vehicles in hopes of stopping people from driving down to the beach in search of quick sex.

In 2007, wardens closed off parts of the woods around the beach to discourage sex in the underbrush and cut down brush around the beach to eliminate cover. But arrests for sex and drugs around the beach still hit a five-year high in 2011; wardens arrested 26 people for sex and 16 people for drugs in just nine days of surveillance.

The DNR closed another 70 acres around the beach last spring, but Kroeplin said it hasn’t stopped people from cruising the beach parking lot on weekdays, when relatively few people are around to complain. Last summer, wardens issued 19 citations for sex and three for drugs over five or six days of surveillance, Kroeplin said; 16 citations were issued on weekdays compared with six on weekends.

“It’s pretty incredible to see the amount of traffic that pulls onto the property,” Kroeplin said. “Everything we’ve done has not made any difference.”

The press release from the state:

In a renewed effort to curb illicit sex in public, drug use and cruising on Mazomanie Beach, the Department of Natural Resources today announced that it is closing the entire property including the beach, islands immediately off the beach, and wooded areas to all public access either from the water or land Monday through Friday from today through September 15. In subsequent years the closure will be in effect March 1 through Sept. 15.

The beach will be open for public recreation Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the year. New signage is being prepared and will be installed as quickly as possible, according to property managers.

“The goal of this closure is to make Mazomanie Beach a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone who visits or floats past the area,” said DNR Conservation Warden Nate Kroeplin. “It is clear from our records that the majority of illicit activity is taking place on weekdays. Along with the closure we will add extra law enforcement presence.”

This closure expands upon an existing closure of wooded areas of the property that left the beach area open and is the latest in a series of access policies the department has implemented over several seasons in an attempt to curb sexual activity, drug use, cruising for sex and complaints.

The beach along the Lower Wisconsin River located in the northwest corner of Dane County in the Town of Mazomanie has attracted people to its open and expansive shoreline for decades. Property along the river was acquired in parcels by the State of Wisconsin since the 1950s to provide a full range of nature based activities including hiking, wildlife viewing, hunting, fishing and wildlife habitat.

National websites have portrayed Mazomanie Beach as a destination spot for naturist activity. Some individuals from states as far away as Florida have traveled to the beach for this and to look for a sexual encounter. Illegal drug use has also been documented.

On the Web…

Past story: https://www.wisconsingazette.com/wisconsin-gaze/nature-in-the-buffbreakdespite-growing-restrictions-mazo-beach-remains-a-top-five-haven-for-naturists.html