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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 »

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 »

SF Sheriff wants to sign inmates up for insurance

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi wants authority to help county jail inmates submit applications for health insurance under the nation’s new law.

Mirkarimi proposes that San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors pass an ordinance to designate his department for such work. It would be one of the first county jail systems in the nation so designated.

The sheriff said many inmates have mental health problems, addictions and other chronic health problems, yet have neither health insurance nor money to pay for medical care after they’re released. Coverage provided under the state’s newly expanded Medi-Cal program for the poor, or bought with a subsidy through the Covered California insurance exchange, would aid these inmates’ re-entry into the community and “have the potential to positively affect public health and recidivism,” his news release said.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: healthcare reform, Public safety, San Francisco politics | 2 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 »

San Francisco nudists’ latest court action flops

A federal judge has declined to issue a temporary restraining order blocking San Francisco’s new public-nudity law.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen ruled Thursday that nudists failed to present specific evidence of how the nudity ban has infringed their constitutional rights, or of why they’d be likely to succeed if the case went to trial.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors late last year adopted an ordinance barring people from baring their genitals on public streets, sidewalks, and most other public rights-of-way as well as on transit vehicles and in transit stations. Exceptions were carved out for permitted events and festivals, and for children under the age of five.

Chen in January issued an order dismissing these same nudists’ effort to keep the law from taking effect Feb. 1. His order back then sided with the city’s arguments that the constitutionality of local restrictions on public nudity has been repeatedly upheld in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and that such bans are a valid and longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation.

Thursday’s ruling dealt with an “as-applied” challenge filed last week, after the law was in effect, claiming the city and its police were chilling their First Amendment rights to engage as in political speech as nudists by taking them into custody rather than writing them tickets for violating the law. The city countered that the nudists have no constitutional right to expose themselves in public.

“And Plaintiffs do not explain, much less submit any evidence demonstrating, how the ordinance prevents them from engaging in political speech or artistic expression,” Deputy City Attorney Tara Steeley wrote in the city’s brief. “Plaintiffs remain free to express any message they want. They simply must cover their ‘genitals, perineum, or anal region’ while on streets, sidewalks and certain other public places.”

Posted on Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Under: San Francisco politics | 1 Comment »

Video: SF Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s jailhouse dance

Remember our story last month about San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who was nearly booted out of office last year after a misdemeanor false imprisonment conviction for an incident with his wife, helping to arrange a choreographed dance for inmates and staff at county jails on Valentine’s Day?

He had invited Dancing Without Borders – a group dedicated to “the healing and unifying power of dance and music as a ritual, community building and empowerment vehicle,” according to the group’s website – to coordinate the event in the men’s and women’s jails in conjunction with One Billion Rising, an international effort to call attention Thursday to violence against women and girls. Female inmates in the Sisters in Sober Treatment Empowered in Recovery program took part, as did male inmates in the Resolve to Stop the Violence Program.

And is there video? Yes, there is video.

Posted on Thursday, March 7th, 2013
Under: San Francisco politics | 2 Comments »

Federal judge to SF nudists: Keep it zipped.

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s new ordinance banning most public nudity, clearing the way for it to take effect this Friday.

District Judge Edward Chen’s order sided with the city’s arguments that the constitutionality of local restrictions on public nudity has been repeatedly upheld in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and that such bans are a valid and longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation.

“Even though we’re not surprised by Judge Chen’s ruling, we’re gratified by an outcome that affirms established case law and preserves reasonable exceptions for permitted events,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a news release.

“Ironically, the nudism advocates’ equal protection claim raised legal questions about the validity of exceptions that the Board and Mayor approved, which allow nudity at events like Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair,” Herrera said. “The plaintiffs took an unlikely position in their case that if they couldn’t be naked everywhere, no one could be naked anywhere. We believed their legal challenge to be baseless, and we’re grateful that the court agreed.”

Chen ruled that the nudism advocates’ First Amendment-based challenge lacked merit because “public nudity alone is not expression protected by the First Amendment,” and because the ordinance was “not substantially overbroad.” He also rejected their arguments that exemptions for such permitted events such as Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair violated constitutional Equal Protection guarantees, holding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the exceptions lacked a rational basis.

Chen dismissed this challenge without leave to amend, but left the door open for nudism advocates to amend their pleading later with “as-applied” claims – meaning, after they’re arrested – provided they can do so.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors late last year adopted an ordinance barring people from baring their genitals on public streets, sidewalks, and most other public rights-of-way as well as on transit vehicles and in transit stations. Exceptions were carved out for permitted events and festivals, and for children under the age of five.

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
Under: San Francisco politics | 1 Comment »

Nudists to descend upon SF City Hall again

Nudists say they’ll descend upon San Francisco City Hall again Tuesday for the Board of Supervisors’ 2013 inaugural meeting.

Naturally, they stand ready to disrobe should Supervisor Scott Wiener – who authored the public nudity ordinance they so vociferously and visually protested last year – be elected president of the board at the noon meeting. And whether or not Wiener gets the gavel, they’re planning to be out on City Hall’s steps – or if it rains, at the Center for Sex and Culture on Mission Street – right after the meeting.

Later Tuesday, they’ll convene at the center for the release of their eBook – “Free Your Body, Free Your Mind!” – with proceeds to pay for nudist legal defense and direct action. The book contains more than 200 color photographs, they say, as well as essays and first-person accounts of “body freedom” and public nudity.

The ordinance that supervisors approved in November won’t take effect until Feb. 1, leaving time for the opponents to have their day in court. That day is coming next Thursday, Jan. 17, with a hearing at which U.S. District Judge Edward Chen will consider whether to grant the nudists an injunction against the new law.

Posted on Monday, January 7th, 2013
Under: San Francisco politics | 2 Comments »

SF seeks dismissal of nudists’ federal lawsuit

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a motion today seeking the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s new ban on public nudity.

The city and county’s Board of Supervisors approved the ban – which provides exceptions for certain city-permitted events and for those under the age of five – at a climactic meeting Nov. 20, and affirmed it Dec. 4.

Opponents of the ban had sued even before the ordinance was passed, claiming it would violate their rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments. The plaintiffs originally sought a temporary restraining order to stop the supervisors from passing the law, but U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen opted instead to consider the challenge instead as a petition for a preliminary injunction, once the ordinance was enacted.

“Public nudity bans are a longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation, and their constitutionality has been repeatedly affirmed by the courts – including the U.S. Supreme Court,” Herrera said in a news release today.

“Ironically, the only novel legal theory plaintiffs put forward in this case is an equal protection claim that could actually undermine exceptions that allow nudity at permitted events like Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair,” he added. “The nudism advocates seem to have taken the position that if they can’t be naked everywhere, no one can be naked anywhere. Fortunately, the legal challenge is without a basis in the law, and we’re confident the court will dismiss.”

Posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Under: San Francisco politics | 3 Comments »