Thursday, September 23, 2010

All Politics Are Local

To paraphrase the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, all politics are local. When looking at gun politics that is the first place one should look. I say this because both the Heller and McDonald cases stemmed from actions by municipal governments.

And so it was in California two days ago when the Santa Clara City Council had planned to vote on an ordinance that would have prohibited firearms from city parks except for "peace officers". The ordinance would have deemed city parks "sensitive places" because children, their families, and others gather there. More importantly, this ordinance would have banned both unloaded open carry (it's a California thing) and licensed concealed carry.

It is not known if this ordinance was proposed by the Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV) but the text of it is very similar to their pamphlet "Address Gun Violence Through Local Ordinances". LCAV has been very active over the years throughout California pushing local ordinances as a means of gun control. In this case, by a finding that city parks were "sensitive places", it may have given them some cover in the face of lawsuits.

On Monday, September 20th, attorney Chuck Michel sent a letter to the City Council on behalf of the NRA and the California Rifle and Pistol Association.The letter made two major points: the proposed ordinance was unconstitutional under Heller and McDonald and the proposed ordinance would violate California's preemption doctrine.

Mr. Michel also discussed three case that are pending in California. The first is Nordyke v. King which is slated for rehearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal. That case deals with a ban of firearms on county property that had been declared "sensitive". Even that the Alameda County fairgrounds ban made allowances for concealed carry permit holders unlike the proposed ordinance. The other two cases are Sykes v. McGinnis and Peruta v. County of San Diego. The issue in both of those cases is whether a municipality can prohibit the lawful carrying of firearms in public by generally denying concealed carry permits.

In the face of this letter which did contain an indirect threat of "costly litigation", City Manager Jennifer Sparacino raised legal concerns about the ordinance and the Santa Clara City Council voted unanimously to withdraw the proposed ordinance from consideration. The City Attorney of Santa Clara will need more time to study the case law cited in the NRA/CRPA letter. While this issue may be brought up again, for the time being it is a win for gun rights at the local level.

Chuck Michel has more on the NRA/CRPA Local Ordinance Project in a post on the CalGuns Forum here.

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