Will New L.A. Ordinance Turn Gun Owners Into Outlaws?

GunIf you’re a gun owner in the city of Los Angeles, you may soon be a criminal.

The City Council has passed an ordinance that bans the possession of any firearms magazine with a capacity greater than 10 rounds. With the mayor’s signature Friday, owners of the prohibited magazines now will have 60 days to turn them over to police, destroy them personally or move them to a location outside the city limits. The ordinance says owners can sell them, but don’t try it — state law prohibits the sale of “large-capacity” magazines and has since Jan. 1, 2000.

Because that state law banned the sale but not the possession of large-capacity magazines, existing property was effectively “grandfathered.” The Los Angeles ordinance makes no such accommodation.

“With a stroke of a pen the Los Angeles City Council has not only turned hundreds of thousands of law-abiding L.A. residents into criminals, they have made property that was legally purchased under state and federal law illegal to possess overnight,” said Paul Nordberg, director of the Calguns Foundation and president of Calguns.net, a highly trafficked online forum for California gun owners. “To the best of my knowledge there is no method or funding for informing the public of their change in status from law-abiding citizen to criminal.”

Nordberg says the people who will be hardest hit are those who participate in the sport of competitive shooting, enthusiasts who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on fees and equipment. Magazines with a capacity of 15 rounds are standard in national competitions. “I refuse to call them ‘high capacity,’” he said, “Fifteen rounds is the standard, and words have meaning.”

People who don’t live in Los Angeles are unaffected by the ordinance, unless they drive through L.A. to get to a shooting range or competition in an area outside the city’s boundaries. Then, Nordberg says, they risk “arrest, confiscation of property and possible loss of civil rights for simply doing the same thing they did the day before and have done for years, simply going to the shooting range with the legal property they have owned for over a decade.”

The City Council is working on a second ordinance that would mandate the use of gun locks in the home. That ordinance is modeled on laws in San Francisco and Sunnyvale that have so far been upheld by the federal courts.

But that may not last. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was not happy with the lower courts’ decision to uphold the mandatory gun lock law. “Despite the clarity with which we described the Second Amendment’s core protection for the right of self-defense, lower courts, including the ones here, have failed to protect it,” he wrote.

Still, the Supreme Court decided not to hear a challenge to the mandatory gun lock law — yet. So Los Angeles jumped right in to pass a similar ordinance.

California is one of only six states that has no “right to keep and bear arms” in its state constitution. In Nevada, for example, the state constitution says, “Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes.”

The Arizona constitution says, “The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself or the State shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.” In Texas, “Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”

But in California the state constitution is silent, so gun owners in the Golden State must depend on the federal courts’ interpretation of the Second Amendment to protect their rights from infringement. That means lawsuits will be filed to challenge the two city ordinances, and city taxpayers will incur the costs of defending the ordinances in federal court.

To better protect Second Amendment rights in California, an amendment to the state constitution is needed that secures for Californians the protections that gun owners have in 43 other states. Without that, we’re at the mercy of politicians who like to score political points by criminalizing the actions of people who didn’t do anything to anybody.

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Susan Shelley is a San Fernando Valley author, a former television associate producer and twice a Republican candidate for the California Assembly. Reach her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

Strict SF Gun Laws Survive Challenge in Courts

GunContinuing its reticence to reach beyond a landmark decision seven years ago, the Supreme Court handed a victory to tight regulations on gun use in San Francisco.

Twin ordinances

“The court on Monday let stand court rulings in favor of a city measure that requires handgun owners to secure weapons in their homes by storing them in a locker, keeping them on their bodies or applying trigger locks,” the Associated Press reported. “A second ordinance bans the sale of ammunition that expands on impact, has ‘no sporting purpose’ and is commonly referred to as hollow-point bullets.” The first ordinance passed in 2007; the second, in 1994.

The NRA and gun rights advocates had expected that the court’s 2008 decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller gave them a strong chance at overcoming the regulations. “Gun owners challenged both ordinances after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Constitution guarantees the right to possess guns at home for self-defense, then ruled in 2010 that state and local laws that substantially burdened that right were invalid,” observed the San Francisco Chronicle. “Gun groups are also relying on those rulings to challenge California’s licensing requirements for concealed weapons, and ordinances in San Francisco and Sunnyvale that ban the possession of high-capacity gun magazines.”

Failure on appeal

As Bloomberg reported, plaintiffs were convinced “that the San Francisco law was similar to the Washington, D.C., trigger-lock requirement invalidated in the high court’s 2008 decision.” But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled against them, teeing up a showdown at the Supreme Court. “The Ninth Circuit Court held that the city had a legitimate purpose in applying laws that reduce the danger of guns,” Al Jazeera America recounted, “and that while it did burden the rights of gun owners, it didn’t burden them so much they couldn’t exercise the rights to self-defense enshrined in the Second Amendment.”

“‘The record contains ample evidence that storing handguns in a locked container reduces the risk of both accidental and intentional handgun-related deaths, including suicide,’ Circuit Judge Sandra S. Ikuta wrote in the court’s opinion in March of last year.”

Among Supreme Court Justices, however, only Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas signaled their willingness to take the case.

“In a six-page dissent, Thomas, joined by Scalia wrote that the San Francisco gun laws are ‘in serious tension with Heller‘ and that the prior court rulings had ‘failed to protect’ the Second Amendment,” National Public Radio noted. “San Francisco’s law allows residents to use their handguns for the purpose of self-defense, but it prohibits them from keeping those handguns operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense when not carried on the person,” according to Justice Thomas.

Mixed messages

Although some legal experts immediately noted that the court’s decision raised questions about just how much protection the Second Amendment now could afford, others noted the court’s recent decision to side with the NRA in a different case.

Just last month, the court drew acclaim from the NRA for its unanimous ruling that convicted felons could sell firearms confiscated by law enforcement.

“The decision came in response to a case involving former U.S. Border Patrol agent Tony Henderson,” Western Journalism reported, “whose 19 guns were confiscated by the FBI upon his arrest on drug charges.”

“Following his guilty plea, Henderson was a felon prohibited from possessing firearms; however, he did not want to simply lose the roughly $3,500 his gun collection was worth. He petitioned a lower court in an effort to allow a third party to take possession of the guns and attempt to sell them on his behalf. That effort was unsuccessful at every stage of appeal up to the Supreme Court level.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com