Lawsuits Out West

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posted on September 8, 2015
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New anti-gun city ordinances in two West Coast cities have prompted the National Rifle Association and others to file lawsuits in order to protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners there.

Both Los Angeles and Seattle have recently passed strongly anti-gun ordinances—L.A., an ammunition magazine ban; Seattle, a gun and ammo sales tax. Now both cities must go to court to defend the poor decisions of their anti-gun officials. 

In Seattle, the city council recently approved, and Mayor Ed Murray signed, a new $25 tax on all guns sold in the city, along with a 5 cent-per-round tax on ammunition sold there. Billing it as a “Gun Violence Tax,” city councilors claim the money will be an answer to the city’s violent crime. As an NRA-ILA spokesperson put it: “The only result of Seattle’s ordinance will be the suppression of Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, and the loss of valuable businesses to other municipalities.”

In truth, what it does is punish law-abiding gun owners, who don’t participate in violent crime, for the criminal actions of others. 

U.S. Army veteran Ken Stok spoke before the city council, asking the question that was on the minds of most law-abiding gun owners at the meeting: “I want to know how my gun ownership is causing violence and crime?” Of course, the council didn’t even attempt to answer that question. Instead, councilors sided with feel-good anti-gunners who simply want to see law-abiding firearm owners hectored, harassed and punished whenever possible.

Interestingly—and the mayor and city council members knew this when they voted—the city doesn’t have the legal authority to enact the tax. It violates Section 9.41.290 of the Washington Code:

The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and pre-empts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter. Such local ordinances shall have the same penalty as provided for by state law. Local laws and ordinances that are inconsistent with, more restrictive than, or exceed the requirements of state law shall not be enacted and are pre-empted and repealed, regardless of the nature of the code, charter, or home rule status of such city, town, county, or municipality.

The NRA, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), Second Amendment Foundation, firearm retailers and gun owners filed the lawsuit against Seattle last week. The obvious truth is that, should the ordinance be enforced, consumers will buy their guns and ammunition outside Seattle, and retailers affected by the drop in sales will move elsewhere. 

As an NRA-ILA spokesperson put it: “The only result of Seattle’s ordinance will be the suppression of Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, and the loss of valuable businesses to other municipalities.” 

Meanwhile in Los Angeles, the city council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have passed a punitive magazine ban that would negatively affect law-abiding gun owners. The new ordinance bans the possession of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds (so-called “large-capacity” magazines). 

Unlike the state’s magazine law, individuals in the City of Los Angeles currently in lawful possession of these magazines will not be protected by a “grandfather” clause. This ordinance effectively amounts to confiscation because the legally owned magazines must be turned in to the Los Angeles Police Department or removed from the city limits. 

Consequently, attorneys bringing the lawsuit plan to ask the court to stop the ordinance from taking effect before Los Angeles residents are permanently deprived of their property. (The law is set to take effect Sept. 19.)

Los Angeles’ definition of a “large-capacity magazine” is identical to that found in California Penal Code section 16740. This includes any ammunition-feeding device with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds. There are three notable exceptions: 

  • Any feeding device that has been permanently altered so that it cannot hold more than 10 rounds;
  • Any .22-caliber tube ammunition feeding device; and
  • Any tubular magazine that is contained in a lever-action firearm.

While the ordinance won’t prevent violent crime, it does limit the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners who choose these magazines to defend themselves and their families. As most gun owners already know, magazines holding more than 10 rounds are standard equipment for many popular pistols and rifles, especially those selected for defensive purposes. 

In truth, these standard-capacity magazines are possessed by millions of law-abiding Americans for a variety of lawful purposes, including self-defense. And since criminals, by their nature, don’t obey laws, banning possession of these magazines by law-abiding citizens puts them at a disadvantage to armed criminals.

Use Your Power!

The NRA is working hard in California to fight for gun owners in Sacramento, in cities and counties across the state, in regulatory agencies, and in the courts. Please help us fight for your right to choose to own a gun for sport, or to defend yourself and your family. You can support the NRA’s pro-Second Amendment efforts in California by donating to the NRA Legal Action Project. All donations will be spent to specifically benefit California gun owners.

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