Handgun Lock-up Law, Bullet Sales Limits Upheld

San Francisco’s handgun lock-up law and its prohibition on hollow-point bullet sales survived constitutional challenge Tuesday in a federal appeals court ruling, which states the law is “not a substantial burden on the Second Amendment right.”

The city ordinance requires that handguns be stored in a locked container at home or disabled with a trigger lock when not being carried.  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law saying the requirement that gun owners store guns under lock and key when not in use is not a substantial burden and promotes an important government interest in reducing firearm-related deaths and injuries.

In addition, the appeals court upheld the city’s ban on sale of highly lethal hollow-point ammunition within San Francisco.  The appeals court found San Francisco carried its burden of showing the ban was a reasonable response to achieve its goal of reducing lethal ammunition in the city.

“We conclude that both regulations withstand constitutional scrutiny,” wrote Judge Sandra Ikuta, a conservative appointee to the court by President George W. Bush.

As a result, the ruling rejects a request for a preliminary injunction to block enforcement.

On hollow-point bullets, the law prohibits the sale of ammunition with “no sporting purpose” and is designed to expand on impact and use the bullet jacket to disperse metal barbs and other material to increase the damage to the human body.

The law was challenged in 2009 by the National Rifle Association, the San Francisco Veteran Police officers Association and six individuals, who are handgun owners in San Francisco.

They argued that they kept their handguns within the home, ready for immediate use, to protect themselves and their families.

The city pointed out that firearms are the third-leading cause of death in San Francisco, according to the court.  Restrictions would reduce the deaths of children who find the guns and potential death or injury in domestic violence cases.

“Even when a handgun is secured, it may be readily accessed in case of an emergency,” wrote Ikuta.  “San Francisco has carried its burden of demonstrating that its locked-storage law serves a significant government interest by reducing the number of gun-related injuries and deaths from having an unlocked handgun in the home,” she said.

Opponents of the ban on hollow-point bullets said the ban limits self defense.  Hollow-points are less likely to ricochet or overpenetrate and injure a bystander.

The court disagreed.

“There is no evidence in the record indicating that ordinary bullets are ineffective for self-defense,” Ikuta wrote.  In addition, because the law affects only the sale of ammunition, San Franciscans are free to use and possess hollow-point bullets within the city limits.

Ikuta was joined by Judges Dorothy Nelson and Milan Smith.

Case:  Jackson v. City of San Francisco,  No. 12-17803





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