Another Court Loss: Preliminary Injunction Denied

Yesterday an NRA backed case that challenged San Francisco’s safe storage and ammunition restrictions lost in District Court. Reading the opinion here, I find myself stunned by this:

Plaintiffs’ showing as to the severity of the burdens imposed by section 4512, “The Safe Storage Law,” is only marginally better. As noted above, section 4512 gives San Francisco residents the very set of rights the Heller plaintiff sought and obtained. San Franciscans may lawfully possess handguns in their own homes, may carry them in their own homes at any time, and may use them for self-defense without running afoul of any aspect of the ordinance. Plaintiffs have offered only the possibility that in a very narrow range of circumstances, the delay inherent in rendering a handgun operable or in retrieving it from a locked container theoretically could impair a person’s ability to employ it successfully in self-defense. Even assuming this rises to the level of a “substantial” burden, however, thereby triggering some heightened degree of scrutiny, plaintiffs have not shown the regulation to be overreaching or improper in any way, or that it fails to serve a legitimate governmental interest. Indeed, as noted in Heller itself, nothing in its analysis “suggest[s] the invalidity of laws regulating the storage of firearms to prevent accidents.”

This is disingenuous, and the quote taken from the full context. The full quote from the Heller opinion, in full context, is this:

The other laws Justice BREYER cites are gunpowder-storage laws that he concedes did not clearly prohibit loaded weapons, but required only that excess gunpowder be kept in a special container or on the top floor of the home. Post, at 2849-2850. Nothing about those fire-safety laws undermines our analysis; they do not remotely burden the right of self-defense as much as an absolute ban on handguns. Nor, correspondingly, does our analysis suggest the invalidity of laws regulating the storage of firearms to prevent accidents.

The majority is refuting justice Steven’s dissenting argument about 18th century laws that mandated storage of excess gunpowder on the top floor of the home, and speaking of safe storage in a context which does not burden the right of self-defense to any real degree. Any honest reading of Heller has to come to terms with the fact that the invalidity of  storage requirements that interfere with self-defense is unambiguously part of Heller‘s holding:

We must also address the District’s requirement (as applied to respondent’s handgun) that firearms in the home be rendered and kept inoperable at all times. This makes it impossible for citizens to use them for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional.

It is difficult to see how the San Francisco ordinance is materially different from that of the District of Columbia’s. I can accept that on the matter of ammunition restrictions, a judge has some room to suggest that case law is not that well established, and perhaps a preliminary injunction is not appropriate, but regardless of what is stated in Nordyke, which cannot control Heller, any requirement that a firearm be bound by a lock or stored in a way that makes it unavailable for self-defense is pretty unambiguously unconstitutional. The judge here pulls dicta out of context, in an attempt to ignore the core holding in Heller. It is worth noting that the judge in this case is an Obama appointee. Elections have consequences.

6 thoughts on “Another Court Loss: Preliminary Injunction Denied”

  1. You should not be stunned. Judges do this all the time. The Miller decision stated that unless the firearm had “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia” it was not protected and could be taxed, regulated, and perhaps banned.

    This was twisted by judges to mean, “unless the individual is part of a militia the Second Amendment does not apply.” Hence any firearm not in the possession of government militia member may be banned.

    I don’t know what the cure for this is. Election have consequences but words have meanings too. But if the meanings were not ignorable (coining a new word) we wouldn’t have nearly as big of a problem in a lot of areas as we do.

  2. Sorry, but this was a case that should never have been taken or limited to solely the claim against the ban on sales of particular bullet types. Requiring random guns be locked up when adults are not home, or when children are in the home and the guns are laying about, etc is likely exactly what SCOTUS was saying was constitutional in that quote.

    That means, the challenge to the SF ordinance was destined to fail on grounds it’s not facially invalid. The problem is all that you are left with is as applied criminal appeals and an overbreadth challenge, the latter of which IIRC was never briefed yet their arguments on why the law was facially invalid were textbook overbreadth claims, yet no overbreadth claim was made.

    We have the same law in MA that SF made. See below for how we are approaching it. Hint: Very slowly and incrementally getting it down to the point where it only applies to when unlicensed individuals are in the home.

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