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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

States Urge SCOTUS to Strike Down S.F. Gun Law

Lincoln, NE - The attorneys general of 26 states have filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on Jackson v. San Francisco, and strike down a San Francisco ordinance requiring guns to be locked up when not in use - even in the home.

The brief poses the question, "Is San Francisco's attempt to deprive law-abiding individuals of immediate access to operable handguns in their own homes any more constitutional than the District of Columbia's invalidated effort to do the same?"

According to the brief, Supreme Court precedent in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller and a ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago in 2010 overturned similar ordinances to the one in San Francisco.

In March 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ordinance, finding that it passed constitutional muster because it limited Second Amendment rights but didn't destroy them.

The amici states, headed by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, disagree. They want San Francisco's ordinance struck down "because its restrictions extend to possession of a firearm by a law-abiding, responsible citizen for self-defense in the home."

The attorneys general also criticize the San Francisco law for downplaying the importance of immediate access to firearms for self-defense.

"In an emergency, where every second counts, the 9th Circuit could have potential victims fumbling, likely in the dark, for keys and/or access codes specifically designed to prevent immediate access," the brief states. "For the 9th Circuit, a delay of, at a minimum, a few seconds means nothing; for the potential victim, a few seconds could mean everything."

The states' top cops were not convinced of the 9th Circuit's finding that the law is constitutional because it applies only to gun storage and still allows people to wear guns on their person in the home, either.

"Under this supposed tailoring, it is a crime to set down an unlocked firearm for even a moment," the brief says, outlining household tasks which make carrying a gun impractical or dangerous - including bathing, holding a child, cooking, making home repairs or sleeping.

Some of these situations, such as sleeping, involve people at their most susceptible to an attack, the brief claims.

"As a result, the ordinance unconstitutionally prohibits law-abiding citizens from defending themselves when they are most vulnerable," the attorneys general say.

"I strongly encourage the safekeeping of firearms in the home particularly when children are present to avoid an accident," said South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley in a statement on Wednesday. "However, the government should not come into our home, dictate and enforce how to keep firearms."

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel agreed.

"We must act, because if the decision by the federal Court of Appeals is not reversed, the precedent it sets could influence policy decisions and court holdings affecting the Constitutional rights of citizens within their homes, not just in the city of San Francisco, but anywhere in America," Schimel said in a separate statement.

The states claim "a profound interest in protecting the fundamental constitutional rights of their citizens," and include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

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