State court refuses to block Sunnyvale Measure C

Sunnyvale’s new ordinance requiring ammunition sellers to log and keep buyers’ names for two years isn’t preempted by state law and so won’t be blocked, a Santa Clara County judge has ruled.

Judge Kevin McKenney refused to block enforcement of the new law, which was approved by city voters last November as part of Measure C, as requested by a local gun-store owner and a national gun-industry trade group.

The plaintiffs – U.S. Firearms, a Sunnyvale store; Eric Fisher, its owner; and the National Shooting Sports Foundation – claimed the ammo-sales log requirement was pre-empted by California’s Anti-Gang Neighborhood Protection Act of 2009. That law would’ve required that all “handgun ammunition” sales be done face-to-face, and would’ve required buyers of such ammunition to show valid ID, which the seller would record and keep for at least five years.

But a Fresno County Superior Court judge issued an injunction to prevent the law from taking effect in 2010. The California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District agreed last November, finding the law is unconstitutionally vague – there’s no definition of “handgun ammunition” clear enough for the law to be enforceable, it ruled – and blocking the law’s enforcement. The state Supreme Court just agreed in February to review that case.

Sunnyvale argued that with no state law in effect, city voters were free to enact their own rules. McKenney agreed last week.

“A contrary conclusion would unreasonably intrude upon the constitutional right of local governments to enact and enforce ordinances and regulations that serve legitimate purposes where the state law forming the basis for a preemption claim is indefinitely inoperative for reasons that do not undermine the efficacy of the local legislation,” the judge wrote.

McKenney also found the plantiffs didn’t establish that they could win their case by arguing the ordinance violates their constitutional rights.

Other parts of Measure C require gun owners to notify police within 48 hours of the loss or theft of a firearm and o keep firearms locked up when not in the owner’s immediate possession, and ban possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The National Rifle Association has challenged the magazine possession ban in federal court; a trial judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused this month to block the ban’s enforcement, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review their rulings.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.