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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 »

    Lawmakers remember Newtown in varied ways

    Tomorrow marks one year since the Newtown school shooting massacre, and as the nation considers what has and hasn’t happened as a result, Bay Area lawmakers are observing the awful anniversary in various ways.

    Nancy PelosiHouse Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will speak at a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America event Saturday morning at St. Vincent de Paul Church in San Francisco. She’ll be joined there by families of victims of gun violence.

    “It’s hard to believe that an entire year has passed since that horrific day – yet it’s even harder to believe that, despite so many promises of action, too many in Congress have advocated only inaction in the fight to prevent gun violence,” Pelosi said Friday. “In the wake this solemn anniversary, that must change. Indeed, our most lasting memorial to the victims of Newtown would be to enact a comprehensive agenda to prevent gun violence, starting with the bipartisan, King-Thompson legislation to expand background checks.”

    Rep. Mike Thompson – co-author of that background-check bill and Pelosi’s appointed point man on gun violence issues – joined congresswomen Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.; Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.; and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, in an “act of kindness” Friday to mark the anniversary.

    Mike ThompsonOfficials in Newtown have urged those who wish to honor the memory of the victims to engage in acts of kindness, and so the four House members helped prepare meals at Martha’s Table, a Washington, D.C, nonprofit that provides healthy meals and education rpograms to nearly 300 children, plus meals and groceries to hundreds of homeless and low-income people.

    Thompson, D-Napa, and H.R. 1565 co-author Pete King, R-N.Y., issued a statement Friday noting that in the year since Newtown “more than 10,000 people have been killed by someone using a gun and Congress has done nothing to reduce gun violence. That is unacceptable.

    “Congress needs to act, and we should start by passing our bipartisan background check bill so that criminals, terrorists, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill do not have easy access to guns,” the lawmakers wrote. “187 of our colleagues have co-authored this legislation and more have said they’d vote for it if the bill was brought to the floor. It’s time to get this bill passed and signed into law.”

    honda.jpgAnd Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, will speak Saturday at a gun buyback event at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Jose, organized by a coalition of South Bay civic organizations. People will be able to anonymously exchange handguns for up to $200 in gift cards; Assemblywoman Nora Campos, San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel, City Councilman Xavier Campos, Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, and Father Jon Pedigo of Our Lady of Guadalupe also are scheduled to speak.

    Honda on Friday called the buyback “a concrete step to get as many dangerous weapons off the streets at possible.”

    “It has been one year since the tragic events at Newtown, and we will always remember those who are no longer with us. It is important to not only protect young children, however, but all of our citizens, and I will continue to fight for real change to our gun laws,” Honda said Friday, saying he has worked to increase funding for background checks and tried to block efforts to make it harder for police to track criminals using illegal guns. “Reducing needless gun violence is one of the key moral causes of our time.”

    Posted on Friday, December 13th, 2013
    Under: gun control, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House | 13 Comments »

    Gun policy debate lines politicians’ pockets

    If ever you doubted that California is the nation’s foremost battleground on gun-control issues, just follow the money.

    Gun-control and gun-rights groups contributed more to state and federal candidates, political parties and PACs in the Golden State than in any other from 1989 through 2012, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis.

    Specifically, gun-control groups contributed $208,344 in California during that time, while gun-rights groups spent $2,645,010 – more than 12 times as much.

    Broken down, gun-rights groups gave $1,309,597 to state candidates and $1,335,413 to federal candidates in California, while gun-control groups gave $16,400 to state candidates and $191,944 to federal candidates.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
    Under: gun control | No Comments »

    Gun control groups say California is still tops

    Eight states including California enacted major gun-control laws in the year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., two big gun-control groups reported Monday.

    Robyn Thomas“We really see this as a turning point on this issue,” Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told reporters on a conference call Monday morning. “This year after Newtown, we got calls from 30 different states interested in introducing legislation. … That was an absolute watershed change from years past.”

    The scorecard report put out by the Law Center and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ranks all states based on 30 policy approaches to regulating guns and ammunition. States received points for having effective laws in each policy area, with stronger laws receiving more points. A letter grade (A to F) indicates the overall strength or weakness of a state’s gun laws.

    California received an A- and continues to top the list of states with the nation’s strongest gun laws. But Connecticut jumped from ranking 4th to 2nd and is joined by New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Maryland at the top of the list of states with strong gun laws, all of which also passed new legislation in 2013. States ranking at the bottom with the weakest gun laws include Arizona, Alaska, Wyoming, and South Dakota – many of which also have some of the highest gun death rates in the country.

    Dan Gross“We think the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed moment,” Brady Campaign president Dan Gross said on the conference call. But watershed moments like this are only catalysts, he said: Ultimately laws don’t change unless people rise up and demand it. “Many states have listened to the will of the American people, state lawmakers have represented their constituents, while Congress has not.”

    Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said some of the new state laws were substantial. Five states – Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Colorado and Illinois – tightened their background check laws to include private sales. Four states – Illinois, New York, Maryland and Delaware – required owners to quickly report the loss or theft of their firearms. Three states – Connecticut, Maryland and New York – passed laws regulating ammunition sales with record keeping and/or background checks. Four states – California, Connecticut, New York and Maryland – beefed up their assault weapons laws in some way. And five states – California, New York, Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland – strengthened existing laws or added new ones dealing with ammunition magazines.

    “To see this many states do this many substantive changes… is really quite amazing,” Cutilletta said.
    While the states’ progress is encouraging, “we can’t have a patchwork system,” Gross said. “Now it’s time for Congress to follow the lead of these states.

    But even though polls show the bipartisan legislation to expand background checks is supported by nine out of 10 Americans including four out of five gun owners, Gross said, getting such a bill through Congress requires reassuring lawmakers that passing it is in their political best interest. “If we can’t do that, we will not succeed in 2014.”

    Gun_Rights_vs_Gun_Control_yearlylobying-01The Sunlight Foundation reported Monday that gun-control groups as of June 30 reported spending five times as much on federal lobbying in 2013 as they did in 2012 – about $1.6 million. Yet gun-rights groups still outspent by more than 7 to 1, sinking $12.2 million into the fight.

    “The months following Sandy Hook saw not only an increase in the quantity of lobbying over gun control but in the nature of the lobbying,” writes Nancy Watzman of the Sunlight Reporting Group. “Much of the increased lobbying spending by gun control groups at the federal level went to hire lions of the Washington lobbyist establishment, big names who have gone through the revolving door from Congress and the executive branch.”

    “Their typical clients are Fortune 500 companies and major trade associations, as opposed to clients with an ideological bent,” Watzman wrote. “For most, this was the first time they reported signing on to the gun issue. In this, the gun control groups were mirroring their opposition: The NRA has long hired outside lobbyists to supplement its staff. Overall, gun control groups reported hiring some three dozen lobbyists at eight lobbying firms. For the vast majority, it was the first time they reported lobbying on behalf of a gun control group.”

    Gross said his group, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and many other groups and individuals are in this for the long haul; he noted that it took six votes over seven years to pass the Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993. “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

    Posted on Monday, December 9th, 2013
    Under: gun control, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

    ‘Operation LIPSTICK’ takes aim at gun trafficking

    A Bay Area congresswoman will host a forum Friday that aims to empower women to stop illegal gun trafficking.

    Jackie SpeierRep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, along with various public health, law enforcement and social service organizations are introducing “Operation LIPSTICK,” an attempt to disrupt illegal pipelines that deliver guns to criminals. The coalition will hold a public forum, “Empowering Women to Stop Illegal Gun Trafficking: A New Public Health Approach,” from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the San Mateo City Council Chambers, 330 W. 20th Ave.

    Brace yourself, acronym fans: LIPSTICK stands for “Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing.” The initiative will use educational workshops, leadership development and community organizing to build support networks for women at risk of being caught up in illegal gun trafficking.

    Men with criminal records who can’t pass background checks often exploit women with clean records as “straw buyers” to buy guns for them, and those often guns end up being used in street crime, Speier’s office said in a news release.

    “LIPSTICK will empower women who are exploited by traffickers to say no to supplying guns to criminals,” Speier said in the news release. “They often unwittingly contribute to gun deaths in our communities. Education will make them less vulnerable to manipulation, make our streets safer and save lives.”

    Speier will be joined at Friday’s forum by David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Research Control Center; former ATF agent David Chipman; Nancy Robinson, executive director of Citizens for Safety; and S.T. Mayer, the San Mateo County Health System’s policy and planning director.

    “As women have helped reduce drunk driving, they can mobilize to reduce firearm violence,” Hemenway said in Speier’s news release.

    Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
    Under: gun control, Jackie Speier, U.S. House | 23 Comments »

    NRA sues San Francisco over ammo magazine ban

    The San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, represented by the National Rifle Association, sued San Francisco in federal court Tuesday over the city’s recently enacted ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

    “Prohibiting the citizens of San Francisco from possessing standard firearm magazines is not an effective means of targeting behavior by violent criminals. The San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association is challenging this law for that very reason,” said Chuck Michel, the NRA’s West Coast counsel. “This is a misguided effort to dismiss the civil rights of the residents of San Francisco. The Second Amendment forbids the city from banning common firearm magazines that are possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”

    San Francisco supervisors on Oct. 29 unanimously approved a ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The state’s assault weapon ban has forbidden their manufacture, sale or transfer since 2000, but let people who owned them before then keep them; the city’s possession ban 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.

    The ordinance is set to take effect Dec. 8, unless a judge issues an injunction halting that.

    The lawsuit filed Tuesday notes that magazines that are in common use for lawful purposes are protected by the Second Amendment, and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds have been around since the 19th century and some standard with many modern firearms.

    “Self-defense is the ‘central component’ of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms that is at its zenith within the home,” the lawsuit argues. “Millions of individual, law-abiding American citizens are currently in possession of standard-capacity magazines that are capable of holding more than ten rounds, that are now banned by Section 619.”

    “Plaintiffs should not have to face criminal prosecution by the City for exercising their constitutional rights to keep and bear constitutionally-protected arms or, alternatively, give up those rights in order to comply with Section 619,” the lawsuit says.

    Besides the organization for retired cops, other plaintiffs include several individual San Francisco residents who want to own higher-capacity magazines for self-defense or sporting purposes.

    Sunnyvale voters this month approved Measure C, which requires gun owners to notify police within 48 hours of the loss or theft of their firearms, and to keep firearms locked up when not in the owner’s immediate possession. It also requires ammunition sellers to keep buyers’ names for two years, and includes a magazine possession ban similar to San Francisco’s. The NRA has vowed to sue that city, too.

    UPDATE @ 12:58 P.M.: This just in from San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera:

    “The NRA is continuing its attack on common sense with its lawsuit today, and San Francisco is prepared to litigate aggressively to defend gun safety laws that save lives.

    “The NRA is clearly focused on a litigation strategy to push its extremist agenda. But the U.S. Supreme Court—even in expanding the Second Amendment’s scope—has been unequivocal that state and local governments are constitutionally entitled to enact reasonable firearms regulations. The high court has explicitly recognized that the constitution does not extend an unfettered individual right to keep and carry dangerous and unusual weapons. I have faith that the federal judiciary will agree that San Francisco’s gun laws protect public safety in a manner that’s both reasonable and constitutional. San Francisco has been one of the NRA’s top targets for years, and I’m proud of the success we’ve made to protect our sensible gun safety laws.”

    Posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
    Under: gun control, San Francisco politics | 3 Comments »

    NRA to sue SF next week, Sunnyvale a week after

    As promised, the National Rifle Association soon will sue San Francisco and Sunnyvale over their recently approved gun-control ordinances.

    “Our office, in representation of the National Rifle Association, will first be filing suit with the city of San Francisco on Monday or Tuesday of next week and then file with the city of Sunnyvale on or about the following Tuesday 11/26,” Mark Selmi, spokesman for NRA West Coast counsel Chuck Michel, said in an email sent late Thursday afternoon. “The National Shooting Sports Foundation may also independently file with both cities.”

    San Francisco supervisors on Oct. 29 unanimously approved a ban on possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. The state’s assault weapon ban has forbidden their manufacture, sale or transfer since 2000, but let people who owned them before then keep them; the city’s possession ban will require owners to get rid of them within 90 days, no matter when they were bought.

    Sunnyvale voters on Nov. 5 approved Measure C, which requires gun owners to notify police within 48 hours of the loss or theft of their firearms, and to keep firearms locked up when not in the owner’s immediate possession. It also requires ammunition sellers to keep buyers’ names for two years, and includes a magazine possession ban similar to San Francisco’s. Each provision mirrors bills that failed this year in Sacramento. Unless put on hold by a court, it’ll take effect in January.

    Even before it passed, the NRA had vowed to challenge it in court. State laws pre-empt Measure C, Michel had said, and it infringes on gun owners’ constitutional rights. “Measure C will confiscate the property of Sunnyvale residents and mandate an inappropriate universal firearm storage requirement that ignores individual circumstances, putting gun owners’ lives at risk.”

    Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri, the driving force behind Measure C, had denounced the NRA’s lawsuit threat: “All they are doing is bullying.” On election night, he told supporters that “What we did here, quite bluntly, is we defeated the NRA tonight.”

    Posted on Thursday, November 14th, 2013
    Under: gun control, San Francisco politics | 4 Comments »