Gun Lockup Rules in S.F. Upheld by 9th Circuit
(CN) - San Francisco does not "destroy" rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment in requiring gun owners to lock up or disable their pistols, and in banning hollow-point bullets, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
The National Rifle Association, along with resident Espanola Jackson and others, sued the city in 2009, claiming that Police Code sections 4512 and 613.10(g) violated the right to bear arms.
Section 4512, the so-called Safe Storage Law, requires that handguns be stored in a locked container when not being carried, even within private homes. The latter section prohibits the sale within the city of fragmenting and expanding bullets, better known as hollow-point bullets, which tend to cause more deaths than regular ammunition.
Finding that the plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed with their challenge, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg denied their request for a preliminary injunction against the laws. The 9th Circuit unanimously affirmed on Tuesday.
The federal appeals court found that the city had justified its strong interest in reducing the number of accidental and intentional deaths caused by firearms.
"San Francisco has carried its burden of demonstrating that its locked-storage law serves a significant government interest by reducing the number of gun-related injuries and deaths from having an unlocked handgun in the home," Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote, noting that "firearm injuries are the third-leading cause of death in San Francisco."
The panel also found that the ban on hollow-point bullets was likely constitutional as "akin to a content-neutral time, place, and manner restriction, such as a regulation which prevents a person from owning a firearm with an obliterated serial number while not barring the possession of an otherwise lawful firearm."
Since both regulations "limit but do not destroy Second Amendment rights," they both "withstand constitutional scrutiny," the panel said.
NRA attorney C.D. Michel said Tuesday that the case is far from over.
"There is confusion and inconsistency about the appropriate standard to use when evaluating Second Amendment challenges among courts across the country and within the Ninth Circuit court itself," Michel said in an email. "The Supreme Court needs to clarify that it meant what it said in its decisions from 2008 and 2010: the Second Amendment is not a second class constitutional right. This case provides a perfect vehicle for these important issues to be resolved, either by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the Supreme Court, and we will seek that review immediately."
The Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller and 2010 ruling in McDonald v. Chicago have inspired several challenges to local gun-control measures such as those in the present case.
Gun groups scored a significant victory in one such case last month when the 9th Circuit struck down down San Diego County's concealed-weapon-permitting program because of its requirement that applicants show good cause beyond self-defense.
In that case, the majority, citing Heller, found that the program had effectively destroyed the right to possess a firearm for "traditionally lawful" purposes, one of which is self-defense.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed a brief in the case in favor of San Francisco's rules. Attorney Jonathan Lowy said that he wasn't surprised by the favorable outcome.
"Courts around the country have all agreed that reasonable regulations on firearms remain constitutional," Lowry said in an interview.
"The court recognized that people can fully exercise their Second Amendment rights even while being required to safely store their guns - which gun manufacturers, the gun industry and the NRA all agree should be done my gun owners."