San Francisco's handgun ban was declared unconstitutional yesterday by the California Court of Appeal, which said it was up to the legislature to make laws about handgun possession or ownership.

While the three-judge panel said it was "sensitive to the political and social overtones of a case such as this," the judges were concerned "only with the narrow legal question of whether the state constitution and state statutes permit San Francisco to enact such an ordinance. We conclude that they do not."

The court told city officials not to enforce the handgun ordinance and to alert residents that it won't be enforced. The city plans to appeal.

The ordinance, passed by the Board of Supervisors in June, makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to possess a handgun in the city. The maximum penalty is a 30-day jail term and a $500 fine.

Peace officers, members of the military on duty, people using licensed target ranges, certain licensed collectors, certain licensed guards and special peace officers are exempt. Also exempt are people with permits to carry concealed weapons and those authorized to sell handguns.

The issue will be on the state ballot Nov. 2 as Proposition 15, which would require handgun owners to register their weapons with the state Department of Justice no later than Nov. 2, 1983, and would make it a misdemeanor to buy, sell or transfer an unregistered handgun.