Judge overturns San Francisco weapons ban
DAVID KRAVETS, Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO - A state trial judge on Monday overturned a voter-approved city ordinance that banned handgun possession and firearm sales in San Francisco, siding with gun owners who said the city did not have the authority to prohibit the weapons.
Measure H was placed on the November ballot by the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, who were frustrated by a rising number of gun-related homicides in the city of 750,000. San Francisco recorded at least 94 murders last year, a 10-year high.
The National Rifle Association sued a day after 58 percent of voters approved the law.
In siding with the gun owners, San Francisco County Superior Court Judge James Warren said a local government cannot ban weapons because the California Legislature allows their sale and possession.
"My clients are thrilled that the court recognized that law-abiding firearms owners who choose to own a gun to defend themselves or their families are part of the solution and not part of the problem," NRA attorney Chuck Michel said. "Hopefully, the city will recognize that gun owners can contribute to the effort to fight the criminal misuse of firearms, a goal that we all share."
The ordinance targeted only city residents, meaning nonresidents in the city or even tourists were not banned from possessing or selling guns here.
Warren's decision was not unexpected. In 1982, a California appeals court nullified an almost identical San Francisco gun ban largely on grounds that the city cannot enact an ordinance that conflicts with state law.
But years later, in 1998, a state appeals court upheld West Hollywood's ban on the sale of so-called Saturday night specials, small and cheap handguns that city leaders said contributed to violent crime. And three years ago, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Los Angeles and Alameda counties, saying local governments could ban the possession and sale of weapons on government property, such as fairgrounds.
That decision, however, did not address the issue of private property sales and possession, as outlined in the San Francisco law.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also is considering a challenge to a similar handgun ban in the District of Columbia that alleges the law violates a Second Amendment right of individuals to bear arms.
The NRA lawsuit here avoided those allegations.
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, whose office unsuccessfully defended the law before Warren, said the city was mulling whether it was going to appeal.
"We're disappointed that the court has denied the right of voters to enact a reasonable, narrowly tailored restriction on handgun possession," Dorsey said. "San Francisco voters spoke loud and clear on the issue of gun violence."
The case is Fiscal v. San Francisco 05-505960.