NRA lawyer sues Sunnyvale, Calif., over its new ammunition ban

December 18, 2013

 


(Charles Krupa/AP)

When voters in Sunnyvale, Calif., approved a gun control measure in November, both sides of the gun debate thought it could help their cause nationally.

Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri, who pushed for the new rules, hoped his city’s restrictions would help to convince local and state lawmakers that there was support for gun control. “City by city, if we start doing something, it’ll give the base for legislators to stand on and take on these issues,” he said in an interview after the vote passed in a 66 percent to 34 percent vote.

But gun rights advocates saw the new rules favorably, too. At least, in a way. While other cases could make it to the level of the Supreme Court, Sunnyvale’s restrictive rules are particularly suited to get there faster, according to an attorney who represents the pro-gun National Rifle Association. And, to get them there, he just filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of a few residents.

“Win or lose, [it could] go straight up to the Supreme Court and be there in a matter of months rather than a matter of years,” the attorney, Chuck Michel, says. The NRA supports the suit.

That’s because Sunnyvale’s rules mandate more urgency than other similar restrictions. Voters approved Measure C last month, which has four components restricting how quickly gun owners must report loss or theft of a firearm, when they must be locked away, how long vendors must keep sales logs and, important to the NRA’s case, possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Michel hopes that a legal gray area created by California’s gun rules and Sunnyvale’s new restrictions will convince courts to act quickly. State law prohibits the sale, purchase or import of such large-capacity magazines, but allows those who already possessed them to keep them. But the new rules ban possession of large-capacity magazines, meaning there’s no clear way to get them back if the rules are overturned.

“Once they don’t have them, they can’t replace them,” he said. “So that creates the need for expedited court review.”

Michel filed the suit Monday on behalf of a handful of Sunnyvale residents, arguing that the ban violates his clients’s Second Amendment rights. “This is standard capacity, this is what comes with firearms off the shelf,” he said. “And that’s because they’re the best suited for sport and self-defense.”

The Sunnyvale measure represented a win for the gun control movement, which has seen less success than the opposing gun rights movement in recent months and years.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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