Federal Court Upholds S.F. Hollow-Point-Bullet Ban and Gun Lock Box Law

Friday, March 28, 2014
Secure-It handgun storage box (photo: National Association of Certified Firearms Instructors)

San Francisco has won a legal victory in a federal appeals court over two ordinances that require handgun owners to lock up their weapons and ban the sale of hollow-point bullets.

The 2009 Safe Storage Law mandated that handguns must be kept in locked containers or have an approved trigger lock installed when not being carried, even within private homes. A second ordinance, from 1994, barred the sale of hollow-point bullets within city limits, but did not prohibit the ownership or use of such ammunition.

Individual gun owners and the National Rifle Association (NRA) went to court seeking an injunction to keep the laws from going into effect, arguing the restrictions amounted to destroying individuals’ Second Amendment rights. U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg denied their request, which forced the plaintiffs to petition the Ninth Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel of appellate justices on March 25 affirmed Seeborg’s ruling after determining San Francisco was legally entitled to take actions to reduce the number of gun-related injuries and fatalities.

“San Francisco has carried its burden of demonstrating that its locked-storage law serves a significant government interest by reducing the number of gun-related injuries and deaths from having an unlocked handgun in the home,” Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote (pdf) for the court.

Ikuta also wrote that “firearm injuries are the third-leading cause of death in San Francisco.”

The NRA’s lawyer, C.D. Michel, indicated the plaintiffs intend to appeal the decision either to the entire Ninth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court.

“There is confusion and inconsistency about the appropriate standard to use when evaluating Second Amendment challenges among courts across the country and within the Ninth Circuit court itself,” Michel said in an email to Courthouse News Service.

Gun-rights advocates and other conservatives have long complained that the Ninth Circuit is too liberal. But the appeals court found in their favor just last month when it threw out San Diego County’s concealed-weapons permit program because it required applicants to show good cause beyond self-defense.

–Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

Court Backs S.F.’s Gun Storage Law, Hollow-Point Bullet Ban (by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle)

Gun Lockup Rules in S.F. Upheld by 9th Circuit (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)

Ninth Circuit Upholds Requirement That Guns Be Either Locked or Carried on One’s Person (by Eugene Volokh, Washington Post)

Espanola Jackson v. San Francisco (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)

Federal Judge Rules San Francisco Can Limit Sales of High-Capacity Magazines (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

California’s Strongest New Gun Law Is Three Years Old (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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