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Veteran cops challenge San Francisco’s gun limit laws
Question of the Day
Gun rights advocates are challenging a newly signed San Francisco law that bans ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds and gives owners 90 days to hand them over to police.
The San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, represented by attorneys from the National Rifle Association, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the ammunition limit signed Nov. 8 by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, a Democrat.
"There are lots of bad guys and gangs out there with guns coming out of their ears," said plaintiff Larry Barsetti, who retired in 2003 after 32 years with the San Francisco Police Department. "What leads people to believe if you put law-abiding citizens at a disadvantage by limiting their magazine rounds, that somehow that makes them safer?"
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera vowed to mount a "vigorous defense" of the city's 10-round magazine limit, which was passed unanimously in October by the city's Board of Supervisors.
"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," Mr. Herrera said in a statement. "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."
San Francisco, known for some of the strictest firearms laws in the nation, is already fighting two lawsuits filed by the NRA. One suit challenges the city's ordinance requiring guns to be locked up when stored at home, while the other bans certain types of ammunition.
The city's latest gun-control ordinance goes beyond the state law banning the sale of magazines exceeding 10 rounds signed Oct. 11 by California Gov. Jerry Brown. The San Francisco law bans possession, meaning that owners will be required to turn in their unlawful magazines by March 8, 90 days after the ordinance takes effect Dec. 8.
Those who refuse to relinquish magazines holding more than 10 rounds would be subject to having them confiscated by police.
"The city's ordinance would confiscate any prohibited magazines and, because of state laws, restrict their transfer without replacement," said a statement by Michel & Associates, the Orange County law firm filing the lawsuit.
Ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds have been commonly used by firearms owners "for nearly two centuries," said the Michel & Associates statement.
"Although the San Francisco ordinance describes the banned magazines as 'large-capacity,' magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds are standard for many common handguns and long guns," the statement says. "Millions of firearms that have been sold in the United States come from the manufacturer with magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds."
Gun-control groups were successful this year in pushing ammunition-magazine limits in Colorado, Connecticut and New York. All three state laws are now facing lawsuits filed by law-enforcement organizations.
In California, San Francisco and Sunnyvale have both approved measures limiting access to ammunition even after Mr. Brown signed 11 gun-control bills in October. The governor, a Democrat, also vetoed seven firearms measures, including a bill that would have banned sale or possession of rifles with detachable magazines of any size.
NRA attorneys are planning to file a lawsuit against a similar 10-round ammunition-magazine limit approved Nov. 5 by Sunnyvale voters.
In their lawsuit challenging the San Francisco ordinance, attorneys argue that the Supreme Court affirmed in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that arms "typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes" or those "in common use" are protected by the Second Amendment.
"Firearms with magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds can be traced back to the era of ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment," says the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. "Millions of firearms that have been sold in the United States come stock from the factory with magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds."
Mr. Barsetti said he still owns two Glock pistols, the same kind he used during his years on the force. Their magazines hold 15 rounds and 17 rounds, but while the law contains exemptions for military personnel and police officers, it makes no exception for retirees.
"I'm a Glock guy. I carried Glocks during my entire career," said Mr. Barsetti. "So the second I retire, I'm a lawbreaker?"
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About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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