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California: Pleasant Hill Planning Commission Runs Bloomberg Lawyers Out of Town

Friday, May 16, 2014

In a significant victory for Second Amendment rights and common sense, the Pleasant Hill Planning Commission voted unanimously on May 6 to recommend against the city adopting a new zoning law designed to put firearm retailers (FFLs) out of business.  This vote was also a blow to the influence of billionaire anti-gun zealot Michael Bloomberg, whose supporters on the City Council are the ones pushing this ordinance.


Two lawyers who work with Bloomberg and the gun ban lobby were at the hearing and spoke in support of this anti-gun proposal.  After listening to those lawyers’ statements, the Planning Commission soundly rejected the Bloomberg shills’ spin. You can see the entire video of the Planning Commission meeting here.


In doing so, the Planning Commission recognized the overwhelming public opposition to and unjust nature of this measure thanks to the many supporters of pro-Second Amendment organizations, including the National Rifle Association, the California Rifle and Pistol Association, Calguns, and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who attended the meeting or wrote in.  Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the end of this fight.  The City Council can still ignore the Planning Commission and adopt this ordinance itself. The Pleasant Hill City Council is currently scheduled to hear this matter on Monday, June 9. That’s why it’s important that you stay tuned for our calls to action in the coming weeks. The City’s history suggests the fight will continue.


The Planning Commission hearing took place because in late 2013, the Pleasant Hill City Council passed an ordinance that imposed significant restrictions and unnecessary regulations on FFLs operating in the city.  This ordinance requires FFLs to obtain a local permit with onerous conditions to sell firearms or ammunition and imposes zoning restrictions that prohibit any FFL from operating in most areas of the city.


This ordinance, like others being pushed locally in California at the behest of the gun ban lobby, is designed to make it extremely costly, impractical and nearly impossible for gun stores to open and operate.  This ordinance was promoted by Pleasant Hill Mayor Michael G. Harris, in his personal quest to garner political support for the gun ban lobby’s agenda.


When the idea of this ordinance first arose, the City Council had the Planning Commission review the file to give their input on whether the ordinance should be drafted and considered.  But the commissioners saw through the efforts, and understood that such an ordinance would harm lawful firearm businesses and discourage future FFLs from trying to open shop in the city.  So the Planning Commission recommended against even drafting the ordinance.


Unfortunately, that didn’t stop Mayor Harris.  Determined to get his ordinance passed despite the Planning Commission’s opposition, he pushed the ordinance through the City Council, this time circumventing the Planning Commission so he didn’t have to bother getting any of the legally required input from those commissioners.


Then the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) filed a lawsuit against Pleasant Hill to block enforcement of the ordinance.  Part of the NSSF’s lawsuit challenges the illegal way Mayor Harris and the City Council circumvented the Planning Commission when the ordinance was passed.  NRA’s California attorneys are working with NSSF’s lawyers on this legal effort so that an NRA amicus brief can be filed when appropriate.


In response to NSSF’s lawsuit, the City Council prepared a new set of zoning regulations - essentially identical to those it had enacted in 2013 without the Planning Commission’s approval.  But this time, to correct the legal mistakes pointed out in the NSSF lawsuit, the City Council tried to first get the Planning Commission’s blessing, or at least pretended it was.

On Tuesday April 1, 2014, the Planning Commission met to consider the new zoning proposal.  The Commissioners decided to postpone any recommendation until May 6, in order to consider the vast amounts of material provided to them by Second Amendment supporters, and to address the lack of material supporting the ordinance, let alone its constitutionality.  It was clear from both the April 1 and May 6 meetings that the Planning Commission felt disenfranchised and insulted by the City Council’s actions.


In response to the April 1 meeting, NRA’s California attorneys submitted a letter to the Planning Commission explaining the City Council’s agenda and urging the Commission to reject the Council’s scheme.  And that is exactly what it did.


This is an example of the positive results that can be achieved when intellectually honest individuals who listen to reason, like the members of the Planning Commission, are in charge, rather than political animals only motivated by their own gain, like the City Council members pushing these laws.  To be fair, two of the City Council members, Ken Carlson and Jack Weir, have voted against the ordinance, and they should be commended and encouraged to do so again if and when it comes before the City Council.


The Planning Commission’s positive action also demonstrates the importance of voting for the right candidates.  Remember, this is an election year and it is crucial that all Second Amendment supporters register to vote.  Your rights depend on you showing up and voting for the right people.


You can also assist in the fight to defend gun owners’ rights in California courts by donating to the NRA Legal Action Project today.  For a summary of some of the many actions the NRA has taken on behalf of California gun owners, including the tremendous recent victory in the Peruta case click here.


Second Amendment supporters should be careful about supporting litigation efforts promised by other individuals and groups without access to the necessary funding, relationships, firearm experts and experienced lawyers on the NRA’s national legal team. The NRA’s team of highly regarded civil rights attorneys and scholars has the resources, skill and expertise to maximize the potential for victory.

California FFL

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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.