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Speier: Yee case proves need for gun control

Amid the cries of rank hypocrisy accompanying state Sen. Leland Yee – a staunch gun-control advocate – being charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to traffic guns, a Bay Area congresswoman says Yee’s case proves the need for stricter gun control.

Jackie Speier“This FBI investigation of Leland Yee reveals how easy it is to import lethal assault weapons that were previously banned,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said in a statement released Wednesday. “This case should be a warning to us all that even the most trusted appearing among us are ready to do real harm. Since Congress can pass no meaningful gun control laws, even after the mass killing in Newtown, President Obama should use his pen to slow the import of these weapons, which have no place in our homes.”

Speier says a ban on imported assault weapons was first imposed by President George H.W. Bush in 1989 and strengthened by President Bill Clinton, but lapsed under President George W. Bush and is no longer enforced.

That didn’t seem to be a factor in Yee’s alleged crimes, so far as one can tell from the affidavit filed by the FBI.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Gun-rights backers decry Leland Yee’s hypocrisy

Gun-rights advocates are up in arms about state Sen. Leland Yee’s alleged double life – an ardent gun-control advocate in public, while secretly negotiating with purported mobsters to set up international gun deals.

“It appears that Leland Yee is not only an epic gun-control hypocrite, but also exactly the type of truly dangerous gun trafficking criminal who my clients have always urged authorities to throw the book at,” Chuck Michel, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association, said Thursday.

Leland YeeYee, D-San Francisco, famously has carried “bullet button” legislation, which would ban a common modification to semi-automatic rifles that lets users quickly swap out their ammunition magazines without running afoul of the state’s assault weapons law. His SB 47 was pulled from consideration last August, a few weeks before the end of the legislative session, but remains pending in the Assembly.

That bill was among eight that made up state Senate Democrats “LIFE Act” gun-control package last year.

“The prevalence of deadly, military-style weapons in our society has resulted in countless tragedies,” Yee said last April. “It is past time to put some common sense laws into place in order to prevent such tragedies in the future. The LIFE Act is a bold step forward in this effort.”

Yee is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of “honest services.” Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking count is punishable by up to five years and $250,000. Free on $500,000 bond, Yee is scheduled to return to court Monday.

An FBI affidavit says Yee told an undercover FBI agent he could facilitate big shipments of guns into the country in exchange for campaign contributions. No guns actually changed hands, but Yee accepted a $5,000 contribution from a bogus company set up by the agent as their negotiations continued in a series of face-to-face meetings from January through March 14. At one such meeting, Yee allegedly discussed specific locations in the Philippines and Florida that might be ideal for moving the guns, which he said would include M-16-type automatic rifles.

Consider what Yee said last October when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would’ve classified all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines as banned assault weapons.

“California’s Assault Weapons Ban has protected the public for decades,” Yee said at the time. “But we must work to make sure that it is capable of dealing with new threats that face California. In the Governor’s veto message, he spoke of the importance of our gun laws and the need to make sure they are carefully tailored. SB 47 will protect the public while keeping an appropriately narrow scope.”

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, March 28th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee | 49 Comments »

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.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: gun control | No Comments »

9th Circuit refuses to block SF gun controls

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s refusal to block San Francisco’s requirement that handguns be locked up when they’re not being carried, and the city’s ban on sale of hollow-point ammunition.

hollow-point ammoThe National Rifle Association, an organization of former police officers and several individuals sued in 2009. A federal judge in 2012 refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the rules’ enforcement; a three-judge panel of the appeals court affirmed that ruling Tuesday.

The plantiffs had argued that there are times – such as when sleeping or bathing – that carrying a handgun is impractical, yet having to retrieve the weapon from a locked box or trigger lock could impair their right to self-defense. San Francisco argued that firearm injuries are the third-leading cause of death in the city, and having unlocked firearms in the home increases risk of gun-related injury, especially to children.

“San Francisco has drawn a reasonable inference that mandating that guns be kept locked when not being carried will increase public safety and reduce firearm casualties,” Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote.

And the hollow-point ammo ban “does not prevent the use of handguns or other weapons in self-defense,” the judge wrote. “The regulation in this case limits only the manner in which a person may exercise Second Amendment rights by making it more difficult to purchase certain types of ammunition.”

San Francisco’s evidence more than “fairly supports” its conclusion that hollow-point bullets are more lethal than other types of ammunition, Ikuta wrote.

The court recognizes the significance of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, “but we also recognize that the Second Amendment right, like the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, may be subjected to governmental restrictions which survive the appropriate level of scrutiny,” she wrote. “Because San Francisco’s regulations do not destroy the Second Amendment right, and survive intermediate scrutiny, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Jackson would not succeed on the merits of her claims.”

Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel, issued a statement saying there’s “confusion and inconsistency” about what legal standards to use when evaluating Second Amendment challenges.

“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 review immediately,” Michel said. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will clarify that it meant what it said in its decisions from 2008 and 2010 — that the Second Amendment is not a second class constitutional right.”

The NRA more recently has sued to block enforcement of San Francisco’s new ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. A federal judge in February refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the ordinance’s enforcement, so it’s scheduled to take effect April 7.

Posted on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Under: gun control, San Francisco politics | 2 Comments »

SCOTUS won’t stay Sunnyvale ammo magazine ban

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has rejected the National Rifle Association’s request for an emergency stay blocking enforcement of Sunnyvale’s new ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, according to SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston.

The NRA had sought the stay Monday after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and a federal trial-court judge in San Jose refused the request as well. Kennedy had ordered Sunnyvale to respond by 3 p.m. Eastern today, and issued his brief order without explanation – not yet available online – at about 4:10 p.m.

The NRA represents six Sunnyvale residents who claim the new ordinance, enacted by 67 percent of the city’s voters last November as Measure C, infringes upon their constitutional rights. The ordinance took effect Dec. 6, giving residents 90 days to either sell their magazines to a federally licensed dealer, store them outside the city, or turn them in to police for destruction. As of late last week, nobody had turned in their magazines, the city reported.

UPDATE @ 3:48 P.M.: Click here for a more complete story, including comment from the NRA’s Chuck Michel.

Posted on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Under: gun control | No Comments »

Judge refuses to stop SF’s ammo magazine ban

A federal judge on Wednesday refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking San Francisco’s new ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, and so the law will take effect as planned on April 7.

The state’s assault weapon ban has forbidden such magazines’ manufacture, sale or transfer since 2000, but let people who owned them before then keep them. San Francisco supervisors on Oct. 29 unanimously approved a ban that will require owners to get rid of them – turn them over to police, remove them from the city, or transfer them to a licensed firearms dealer – within 90 days, no matter when they were bought.

30-round magazineThe San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, backed and represented by the National Rifle Association, sued in November to prevent the new law from taking effect. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued a 12-page ruling Wednesday that concluded immediate enforcement is in the public interest.

“In assessing the balance of equities, those rare occasions must be weighed against the more frequent and documented occasions when a mass murderer with a gun holding eleven or more rounds empties the magazine and slaughters innocents,” Alsup wrote. “One critical difference is that whereas the civilian defender rarely will exhaust the up-to-ten magazine, the mass murderer has every intention of firing every round possible and will exhaust the largest magazine available to him. On balance, more innocent lives will be saved by limiting the capacity of magazines than by allowing the previous regime of no limitation to continue.”

The judge also noted that 86 percent of mass shootings in the past 30 years involved at least one magazine that could hold more than 10 rounds, and more people are injured and killed per mass shooting with such magazines than without. “San Francisco’s interest in preventing another Sandy Hook tragedy constitutes a ‘critical public interest.’”

A spokesman for Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel, said the plaintiffs will appeal Alsup’s ruling.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued a statement applauding the decision.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has been very clear that state and local governments are constitutionally entitled to enact reasonable firearms regulations, and that Second Amendment rights aren’t unlimited,” he said. “Unfortunately, the NRA is pushing a radical litigation strategy that goes far beyond what’s reasonable. I’m grateful to the district court for drawing that distinction in persuasive terms.”

Posted on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Under: gun control, San Francisco politics | 4 Comments »

California reps sign brief for right to carry guns

Two California congressmen are among 34 GOP lawmakers who have signed onto a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether the Second Amendment secures the right to carry handguns outside the home for self-defense.

The brief signed by Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Oroville, and John Campbell, R-Irvine, urges the high court to review the Drake, et. al. v. Jerejian, et. al. case that was decided last July by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Four New Jersey residents and two organizations had challenged a state law requiring that people show a “justifiable need” for a permit to carry a handgun outside the home; they lost both in the district and appellate courts.

“We conclude that the District Court correctly determined that the requirement that applicants demonstrate a ‘justifiable need’ to publicly carry a handgun for self-defense qualifies as a ‘presumptively lawful,’ ‘longstanding’ regulation and therefore does not burden conduct within the scope of the Second Amendment’s guarantee,” the appeals court concluded.

Second Amendment Foundation founder and executive vice president Alan Gottlieb said he’s glad so many members of Congress signed onto the brief urging the high court to take the case.

“The Supreme Court has already affirmed that the right to keep and bear arms applies to individual citizens, so it simply makes sense that this right extends beyond someone’s doorstep,” Gottlieb said. “A right limited to someone’s home unless a citizen can demonstrate some nebulous ‘justifiable need’ is not a right at all, but a heavily-regulated privilege.”

UPDATE @ 12:43 P.M.: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has just ruled today in a similar case, finding San Diego’s – and by extension, many other California counties’ – requirements for proving “good cause” for a concealed carry permit are unconstitutionally restrictive. Read my full story here.

Posted on Thursday, February 13th, 2014
Under: gun control, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

Gun-control recall effort seems to be in limbo

An effort to recall several California Democratic lawmakers from office because of their votes on gun-control bills last year seems to be on the back burner now.

“They’re not off the table, they’re still being considered, but there’s just a lot going on,” said Jennifer Kerns, who founded the nonprofit Free California last October. “No decisions have been made as to whether to move forward. … We’re still in sort of a wait-and-see mode.”

Tim Knight, Tim Donnelly, Jennifer KernsKerns, a political consultant now managing Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly’s gubernatorial campaign, was involved in last year’s successful recall of two Colorado lawmakers over that state’s gun-control legislation.

But California and Colorado are very different, noted Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, whose group was supporting the Free California effort.

The Legislature’s Democratic supermajority could too easily consolidate any recall elections with this year’s regular elections, thus negating recall supporters’ advantage of lesser total voter turnout, Paredes said. Also, California requires that recall petition signature gatherers be registered to vote within that specific district, making use of paid circulators much harder.

“We’re looking at the realities of politics in California, the realities of the electoral process,” Paredes said. “So we’re in a contemplative status.”

Free California in October had named as potential targets state Sens. Norma Torres, D-Chino, and Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista; Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton; and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.

Kerns noted Wednesday that two of those districts – Hueso’s and Gonzalez – would’ve competed for attention with the San Diego mayoral election that just concluded this week; now that the mayoral contest is done, Free California might take a fresh look at unseating the lawmakers.

Free California’s Facebook page hasn’t been updated since October. As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, it’s not required to disclose its contributors.

Though both Kerns and Paredes said the recall idea isn’t completely off the table, it’s hard to see how they can maintain momentum as more time passes since last year’s gun-control votes; petitions began circulating for the Colorado recalls less than a week after that state’s new bills were signed into law. And as this year’s gubernatorial and legislative races demand more attention, time and money, there’ll be less and less left for an effort like this.

Posted on Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, John Perez | 6 Comments »

Gun group says official has conflict of interests

A gun industry trade group is pressing California Attorney General Kamala Harris to act on its complaint about Fish and Game Commission President Mike Sutton, whom it says shouldn’t be involved in implementing the state’s new ban on lead ammunition in hunting.

Mike SuttonThe National Shooting Sports Foundation first wrote to Harris in December about Sutton, who still has one more year to serve on the six-year term to which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger re-appointed him in 2009. Sutton, 56, of Carmel Valley, is former executive director of Audubon California and remains the National Audubon Society’s vice president for the Pacific Flyway.

The foundation’s complaint says Sutton has received and still receives income from Audubon – a state lobbyist employer – while serving as the commission’s president. “His employer lobbies the Commission on governmental decisions which he makes and/or participates in, contrary to the letter and spirit of California laws proscribing incompatible activities,” the complaint says.

Audubon co-sponsored last year’s AB 711, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October to ban use of lead ammunition in hunting by mid-2019. The new law lets the state Fish and Wildlife Department suspend the ban if the federal government prohibits non-lead ammunition because it’s considered armor-piercing.

The Fish and Game Commission in December started the process of developing regulations to implement this new law, and Sutton took part in that discussion; it’s back on the commission’s agenda for this Wednesday, Feb. 5.

“I believe that Commissioner Sutton’s participation in the discussion of these proposed regulations is contrary to both the letter and the spirit of California’s conflict of interest and incompatible activities laws, regulations, and policies,” Lawrence Keane, the NSSF’s vice president and general counsel, wrote to Harris in a follow-up letter Monday. “This is the precise type of scenario these rules were developed to prevent – a public official who has a private interest that makes it impossible to impartially carry out his or her official duties.”

The San Diego Union Tribune reported in 2009 that Sutton was accused of a conflict of interest after taking part in the commission’s decision-making on the Marine Life Protection Act while working as director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Center for the Future of the Oceans. Both the aquarium and the push for the MLPA were funded in large part by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Sutton didn’t return an email seeking comment Monday afternoon.

Posted on Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Under: Environment, gun control | 7 Comments »

Tech, or lack thereof, keeps shaping gun debate

As the California Legislature prepares to revisit a host of gun-control bills that didn’t make it into law last year, technology – new, or perhaps not-yet-viable – keeps shaping the debate.

SB 293 by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, which would’ve required the adoption of smart-gun user identification technology in all new guns sold in the state, stalled out in committee. One of the chief criticisms is that the technology remains nowhere near reliable enough to be made mandatory.

But 10 months after Silicon Valley leaders joined with parents of children who’d been slain at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., to call for high-tech solutions to gun violence, a new tech initiative is about to take off.

The Smart Tech Foundation is seeking proposals for technology that blocks unauthorized use of handguns and ammunition; teams interested in competing for grants and prize money totaling at least $1 million can apply starting Tuesday.

“A panel of expert and industry-leading judges will review the proposals and allocate funds directly to innovators to help build an ecosystem of innovation and address gun violence through free market forces,” the foundation said in a news release.

The competition kicks of with a news conference Tuesday in San Francisco at which companies from around the world will share their stories and demonstrate technology they’re already developing, including:

  • Armatix, which touts a “Smart System” using a radio-controlled watch that allows the gun to operate;
  • Everlokt Corp., which has a patent pending on Safe Access Ammunition;
  • Allied Biometrix, developing a gun with biometric sensors in the grip to recognize authorized users;
  • Salus Security Devices, which makes the Protector XT biometric locking station for long guns;
  • Sentinl, which is developing a biometric trigger lock;
  • TriggerSmart Technologies, developing an RFID system for firearms; and
  • Yardarm Technologies, developing motion-sensor technology that will notify the rightful user remotely and in real time if the firearm is being handled.
  • Among those scheduled to be at Tuesday’s event are SV Angel founder Ron Conway; San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr; Smart Tech Foundation Director Jim Pitkow; and Smart Tech Foundation President Margot Hirsch.

    Meanwhile, an existing state law has pushed a major gun manufacturer to pull most of its semi-automatic handguns from California’s market.

    Lots more on this, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
    Under: gun control | 3 Comments »