The 2011 Ruling from the California Court, in a dramatic ruling, gave gun owners a win in a National Rifle Association / California Rifle and Pistol (CRPA) Foundation lawsuit. Fresno Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Hamilton ruled that AB 962— the hotly contested statute that would have banned mail order ammunition sales and required all purchases of so called “handgun ammunition” to be registered—was unconstitutionally vague on its face. The Court enjoined enforcement of the statute, so mail order ammunition sales to California can continue unabated, and ammunition sales need not be registered under the law.
The lawsuit was prompted in part by the many objections and questions raised by confused police, ammunition purchasers, and sellers about what ammunition is covered by the new laws created by AB 962. In a highly unusual move that reflects growing law enforcement opposition to ineffective gun control laws, Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. Other plaintiffs include the CRPA Foundation, Herb Bauer Sporting Goods, ammunition shipper Able’s Ammo, collectible ammunition shipper RTG Sporting Collectibles, and individual Steven Stonecipher. Mendocino Sheriff Tom Allman also supported the lawsuit.
The ruling comes just days before the portion of the law that bans mail order sales of so called “handgun ammunition” was set to take effect on February 1, 2011. The lawsuit, Parker v. California is funded exclusively by the NRA and the CRPA Foundation. If it had gone into effect, AB 962 would have imposed burdensome and ill conceived restrictions on the sales of ammunition. AB 962 required that “handgun ammunition” be stored out of the reach of customers, that ammunition vendors collect ammunition sales registration information and thumb-prints from purchasers, and conduct transactions face-to-face for all deliveries and transfers of “handgun ammunition.” The lawsuit successfully sought the declaration from the Court that the statute was unconstitutional, and successfully sought the injunctive relief prohibiting law enforcement from enforcing the new laws.
The lawsuit alleged, and the Court agreed, that AB 962 is unconstitutionally vague on its face because it fails to provide sufficient legal notice of what ammunition cartridges are “principally for use in a handgun,” and thus is considered “handgun ammunition” that is regulated under AB 962. It is practically impossible, both for those subject to the law and for those who must enforce it, to determine whether any of the thousands of different types of ammunition cartridges that can be used in handguns are actually “principally for use in” or used more often in a handgun. The proportional usage of any given cartridge is impossible to determine, and in any event changes with market demands. In fact, the legislature itself is well aware of the vagueness problem with AB 962’s definition of handgun ammunition and tried to redefine it via AB 2358 in 2010. AB 2358 failed in the face of opposition from the NRA and CRPA based on the proposal’s many other nonsensical infringements on ammunition sales to law abiding citizens.
Constitutional vagueness challenges to state laws are extremely difficult to win, particularly in California firearms litigation so this success is particularly noteworthy. Even so, an appeal by the State is likely, but the Court’s Order enjoining enforcement of the law is effective – February 1, 2011 – immediately regardless.
Despite this win for common sense over ill-conceived and counter productive gun laws, additional legislation on this and related subjects will no doubt be proposed in Sacramento this legislative session. It is absolutely critical that those who believe in the right to keep and bear arms stay informed and make their voices heard in Sacramento. When AB 962 passed there was loud outcry from law abiding gun owners impacted by the new law. Those voices must be heard during the legislative session and before a proposed law passes, not after a law is signed. To help, sign up for legislative alerts at www.nraila.com and www.calnra.com and respond when called upon.
Seventeen years ago the NRA and CRPA joined forces to fight local gun bans being written and pushed in California by the gun ban lobby. Their coordinated efforts became the NRA/CRPA “Local Ordinance Project” (LOP) – a statewide campaign to fight ill conceived local efforts at gun control and educate politicians about available programs that are effective in reducing accidents and violence without infringing on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. The NRA/CRPA LOP has had tremendous success in beating back most of these anti-self-defense proposals.
In addition to fighting local gun bans, for decades the NRA has been litigating dozens of cases in California courts to promote the right to self-defense and the 2nd Amendment. In the post Heller and McDonald legal environment, NRA and CRPA Foundation have formed the NRA/CRPA Foundation Legal Action Project (LAP), a joint venture to pro-actively strike down ill-conceived gun control laws and ordinances and advance the rights of firearms owners, specifically in California. Sometimes, success is more likely when LAP’s litigation efforts are kept low profile, so the details of every lawsuit are not always released. To see a partial list of the LAP’s recent accomplishments, or to contribute to the NRA or to the NRA / CRPAF LAP and support this and similar Second Amendment cases, visit www.nraila.com and www.crpafoundation.org.
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