S.F.'s police commissioner tweeted an 'uncomfortable truth' on guns and teens. Now, two supervisors say he should step aside

San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani is calling for Police Commissioner John Hamasaki to “step aside” following a social media post in which he argued that it was dangerous in some cases for police to confiscate guns from teens.

Stefani’s Tuesday afternoon tweet, which touched off a barbed Twitter scuffle between the District Two supervisor and the criminal defense attorney, has since drawn support from two more supervisors and critics who say Hamasaki isn’t fit to serve in his esteemed post.

Others have rushed to Hamasaki’s defense, calling out perceived hypocrisy from the commissioner’s critics and supporting Hamasaki’s words in a nuanced debate on guns and gun violence.

The debate stemmed from Hamasaki tweeting Tuesday morning about a New York Police Department post that touted how its officers had recovered a stolen handgun from a 17-year-old.

“Uncomfortable truth,” Hamasaki wrote in the tweet. “Taking a gun from one kid may as likely stop violence as end up in that kid getting killed. It may feel good to post this photo, but I’ve known too many kids who were killed for being in the wrong neighborhood (often their own) & being unable to protect themselves.”

Stefani, a vocal violence-prevention activist, replied that his post “sends the absolute wrong message.”

“Shootings have spiked over the course of the past year, killing far too many young people in our city,” she continued. “If you’re not up for the task of keeping all San Franciscans safe, you should step aside.”

Hamasaki responded that he “actually work(s) and spend(s) time in the communities impacted by gun violence.”

“I have had clients and their families killed by guns, and I have consoled the fathers, mothers, and children killed by guns,” he continued. “The world is bigger and more complicated than D2 and the Marina.”

District Seven Supervisor Myrna Melgar weighed in on the matter Tuesday evening in support of Stefani.

“Arguing that GUNS can keep teens safe is crap,” she wrote. “F nuance.”

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí jumped into the fray on Wednesday, saying he agreed that Hamasaki was no longer fit to serve.

“Resign NOW,” Safaí tweeted.

Hamasaki was selected by the Board of Supervisors to serve on the Police Commission in 2018.

Stefani and Safaí are known as the two moderate Democrats on the Board of Supervisors, while Hamasaki more closely aligns with the city’s more left-leaning contingency.

While many of the city’s liberal Twitter users defended or supported the commissioner, Hamasaki’s posts have also courted strange bedfellows. San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela López, “liked” several of his tweets on the matter, while San Francisco Republican Party Chairman John Dennis deemed Hamasaki’s statement “a truism.”

“Guns save lives too,” Dennis said.

When reached by The Chronicle Tuesday evening, Stefani said that she’s been an anti-gun-violence advocate for over 20 years, and found it “offensive to suggest that arming teens is a way to prevent gun violence.”

“The notion flies in the face of all the social science research we’ve seen,” she said.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Hamasaki said he would not be stepping down from his post as police commissioner, and that he planned to reach out Stefani to discuss how to keep their communities safer.

Hamasaki said he was not calling for teens to be armed, but for nuance in the debate.

“I think the reading of (the tweet) that some people took was a little bit disingenuous,” Hamasaki said. “I don’t want, approve or encourage people to use guns to solve their problems.”

Hamasaki said while it’s a great idea to take guns off the streets, the realities for some neighborhoods are more complex.

“When you simplify it, it justifies the system of mass incarceration that we have,” he said. “I just have a real hard time passing the same level of judgment to a kid who’s living in a neighborhood infested by drugs and violence.”

Megan Cassidy is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @meganrcassidy

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