NRA’s bid to halt enforcement of S.F. gun laws rejected by federal judge

Herrera hails ‘thoughtful and persuasive ruling that affirms our position that San Francisco’s gun laws protect public safety’

SAN FRANCISCO (Nov. 27, 2012) — A federal judge has rejected a move by the National Rifle Association to halt San Francisco’s enforcement of two local gun control ordinances: a safe storage law that requires handgun owners to keep guns locked when stored at home, and a ban on the sale of highly lethal bullets designed to maximize injury to the human body. The decision issued late yesterday by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg denied the NRA’s motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that lawyers for the Fairfax, Va.-based gun lobby did not show a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of their case, and sided with City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s argument that City gun laws were reasonably intended to protect public safety without impinging on residents’ right to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Herrera’s office has been among the public law offices most extensively involved in federal legal battles over the scope of the Second Amendment, which evolved significantly with two recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court’s 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller held that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to possess firearms, and its subsequent holding in 2010’s McDonald v. Chicago established that individual right as applicable to states and local governments. The two decisions opened the door to aggressive efforts by the NRA and other gun rights advocates to further push the limits of the Second Amendment, raising doubts about the legal viability of local gun control laws nationwide. Public law offices like Herrera’s have been at the forefront of efforts by major cities to preserve reasonable public safety regulations of firearms.

“This is a thoughtful and persuasive ruling that affirms our position that San Francisco’s gun laws protect public safety in a manner that’s reasonable and constitutional,” said Herrera. “The NRA took aim at San Francisco’s Police Code within hours of the 2008 Heller decision, and I’m proud of the efforts we’ve made to beat back these legal challenges, and preserve local laws that can save lives.”

One of the San Francisco Police Code provisions under challenge in the litigation is the “Safe Storage Law” (S.F. Police Code, Sec. 4512), which generally requires City residents to apply trigger locks or to store their handguns in locked containers when not carried on their persons. Of the ordinance, Judge Seeborg wrote: “San Franciscans may lawfully possess handguns in their own homes, may carry them in their own homes at any time, and may use them for self-defense without running afoul of any aspect of the ordinance. Plaintiffs have offered only the possibility that in a very narrow range of circumstances, the delay inherent in rendering a handgun operable or in retrieving it from a locked container theoretically could impair a person’s ability to employ it successfully in self-defense. Even assuming this rises to the level of a ‘substantial’ burden, however, thereby triggering some heightened degree of scrutiny, plaintiffs have not shown the regulation to be overreaching or improper in any way, or that it fails to serve a legitimate governmental interest.”

Another challenged provision (S.F. Police Code, Sec. 613.10(g)) prohibits the sale of “Particularly Dangerous Ammunition,” barring gun shops from selling ammunition that serves “no sporting purpose,” like fragmenting bullets and expanding bullets, which are specially enhanced to increase the harm inflicted on human targets. Judge Seeborg wrote: “Even assuming a constitutional right to possess and use the particular types of ammunition within the ambit of section 613.10(g) could be found, plaintiffs simply have not shown that prohibiting sales of such ammunition within City limits imposes a substantial burden on their ability to acquire it.”

The case is: Espanola Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. C 09-2143 RS.

Related Documents:

PDF iconPDF of the NRA Jackson Preliminary Injunction presskit (Nov. 27, 2012)