Almost anywhere else in America, High Bridge Arms would’ve been just another gun store.
But in San Francisco, the arms dealer located in the gentrifying Bernal Heights neighborhood has always been so much more.
Gun enthusiasts see the business as a proud outpost surrounded by territory hostile to the Second Amendment. They come from all over the world to buy T-shirts that proclaim in English and Chinese that High Bridge is “The Last San Francisco Gun Store,” according to the Associated Press. A Texas state flag — a gift from a Texas sheriff — hangs in the middle of the store, according to the Trace. European tourists are known to walk through the front door and pose for travel photos.
The store’s critics have rarely viewed the business so lightly. To them, High Bridge Arms is an out-of-place public nuisance hawking products that endanger the lives of San Franciscans.
Those critics are now in luck. Last month, general manager Steven Alcairo announced on Facebook that High Bridge Arms is closing its doors at the end of October. As the closure approaches, Alcairo is blaming the store’s many opponents and the city’s cumbersome laws.
“It’s just too much coming from all sides,” Alcairo told ABC affiliate KGO-TV.
Namely, he told the AP, a proposed ordinance that would force the store to record each sale and submit weekly reports detailing ammunition sales to police. Alcairo added that he has also grown tired of filling out “mountains of paperwork” for the San Francisco Police Department, the state Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“I’m not doing that to our customers,” Alcairo said, referring to the proposal. “Enough is enough. Buying a gun is a constitutionally protected right. Our customers shouldn’t be treated like they’re doing something wrong.”
According to Fox News, past regulations have forced the business to remove ads from its windows and “install cameras and barriers around its exterior.” Alcairo said the store has 17 cameras whose video footage he hands over to police anytime they request it.
“This time, it’s the idea of filming our customers taking delivery of items after they already completed waiting periods,” Alcairo said. “We feel this is a tactic designed to discourage customers from coming to us.
“This year, it’s this, and next year will probably be something else,” he added. “We don’t want to wait for it.”
Supervisor Mark Farrell, who introduced the bill that Alcairo claims will put his store out of business, told the San Francisco Examiner that the city can always do more to combat gun violence.
“Easy access to guns and ammunition continue to contribute to senseless violent crime here in San Francisco and across the country,” Farrell said when announcing the law. “Even though San Francisco has some of the toughest gun-control laws on the books in the country — there is more we can do to protect the public.”
Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told Fox News that the gun shop should have no reason to worry about increased regulation.
“If High Bridge Arms is so scared of implementing such a practice, my first question would be, ‘What do you have to hide?,'” he said. “Why in the world aren’t we requiring all gun stores to tape sales at this point?”
When it closes, High Bridge Arms will take a chunk of San Francisco history with it. According to the Trace:
The 1,200-square-foot shop has been in the same location since 1952. In 1987, it was purchased by a Japanese man named Andy Takahashi, who rechristened the store “High Bridge,” the English translation of his last name. Takahashi is approximately 5 feet tall, and in 1974 he was ranked the No. 2 powerlifter in Northern California. Now in his 70s, a picture hangs on the shop’s wall of him in his prime, deadlifting several hundred pounds. “He was pretty strong,” Alcairo says.
Over the next few decades, as San Francisco passed more laws to stem gun violence, other gun stores in the city began to shutter, until High Bridge Arms was the only one left, Alcairo told the Trace. Alcairo said his favorite store was the San Francisco Gun Exchange, which he described as “the Waldorf of gun stores.”
“Very classy,” he added. “They didn’t decorate the shop with camo netting.”
The Gun Exchange, the city’s largest gun shop at the time, closed in 1999 “amid increasing state and local regulations,” according to the San Francisco Examiner.
Despite the push-back from local politicians, Alcairo told the Trace that he gets along well with his neighbors, which include a marijuana dispensary and a bar across the street that is popular with the local gay community. Over the past decade, he said, he has had only one bad interaction with a neighbor, who dropped by the store to voice her opinion one day.
“She said, ‘I wish you would take your store back to Texas,’” Alcairo told the Trace. “I was like, ‘Hey, I’m second generation in San Francisco.’”
Guns in the store range in price $400 to $3,000, according to the Examiner. Alcairo told the paper that he sells weapons daily and estimates that customers purchase 1,000 handguns and 1,000 long guns each year. He said 80 percent of his customers are San Francisco residents.
As much as he loves his customers, Alcairo told the AP that he is disappointed in his home town.
“This is the city that defended gay marriage and fights for unpopular causes like medical marijuana,” he said. “Where’s my support?”
This post, originally published on Oct. 4, has been updated.