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NRA Files Suit against Sunnyvale, Calif., Over Magazine Ban

Friday, January 17, 2014

On December 16,, 2013, counsel for NRA brought a suit against the city of Sunnyvale, Calif., to invalidate the city’s recently enacted ordinance banning standard-capacity firearm magazines. The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of several law-abiding gun owners, and argues that the new law violates the plaintiffs’ right to keep and bear arms as protected by the Second Amendment.

The offending ordinance was part of a package of gun controls that appeared as an inaccurately labeled “gun safety” ballot measure, for the city’s November 5, 2013, election. Residents were asked, “Shall the City of Sunnyvale adopt a gun safety ordinance to require: 1) reporting to police, within 48 hours, known loss or theft of a firearm; 2) storing firearms in residences in a locked container or disabling them with a trigger lock when not in the owner's immediate possession; 3) prohibiting the possession of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, with certain exceptions; and 4) logging and tracking of ammunition sales within the City of Sunnyvale?” The measure passed, with two thirds voting in favor.

The magazine ordinance consists of a total civilian ban on “ammunition feeding devices” with a capacity greater than 10, requiring that residents remove any such magazines from the city, sell them to a gun dealer, or allow them to be confiscated by law enforcement within 90 days of the law’s effective date of December 6, 2013. A separate suit has been filed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County challenging the city’s new ammunition sales regulations.

The NRA-supported complaint argues that access to the types of magazines the ordinance prohibits is protected under the Second Amendment. The complaint notes that in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the court found that the Second Amendment protects “arms ‘typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes’ or those ‘in common use.’” The complaint goes on to describe at length the popularity of the magazines the ordinance bans, noting that millions of such magazines are owned by millions of Americans. Further, the complaint explains that such magazines are often used to further the “central component” of the Second Amendment right, self-defense.

The ramifications of this important case could reach far beyond the borders of Sunnyvale. Speaking with the San Jose Mercury News, NRA counsel Chuck Michel noted, “There's an epic legal battle for the future of the Second Amendment going on across the nation right now, and Sunnyvale, by passing this ordinance, jumped right into the middle of the fray.”  Michel added that the case “really is, in many ways, perfect for Supreme Court review.” Reiterating the importance of the case, the Washington Post reported Michel as stating that the case could “go straight up to the Supreme Court and be there in a matter of months rather than a matter of years.”

Whatever happens next, NRA will, of course, keep its members apprised of major developments.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.