Judge Dismisses NRA, Upholds Sunnyvale Gun Control Measure

Sunnyvale's voter-approved gun control measure doesn't violate the Second Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ron Whyte upheld Measure C, an ordinance approved by 66 percent of voters last fall in response to the 2012 Newtown massacre. With this ruling, the municipal gun law becomes effective today. Read the exact language of the new city code here.

Sunnyvale residents can no longer own gun magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds and have to lock up their firearms at home. The ordinance also holds the city's gun-store owners accountable for keeping records on ammunition sales for two years and residents criminally liable if they don't report their guns lost or stolen within two days.

Sunnyvale gun-owners had a three-month grace period to sell off, give away or turn in their high-capacity magazines to police to be in compliance with the law, said Sunnyvale communications officer Jennifer Garnett.

"We're pleased with judge Whyte's decision," Garnett said. "We believe it's consistent with what the majority of our citizens said they wanted when they passed the ordinance."

Whyte's decision marks the second such ruling in a federal court in recent weeks. Another judge in February sustained San Francisco's ban on high-capacity magazines for similar reasons.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) filed both lawsuits to kill the city prohibitions, suggesting they defy a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court precedent that stated every responsible citizen has a constitutional right to own a firearm for their own safety.

In handing down his decision, Whyte pointed to an NRA study that showed Americans who fired in self-defense used three or fewer shots and that limiting clip capacity to 10 or less bullets would in no way violate the Supreme Court ruling. He said the plaintiffs used only anecdotal evidence to support their claim that high-capacity clips are needed for self-defense.

"The banned arms—magazines having the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds—are hardly central to self defense," Whyte wrote in the motion denying the injunction.

This week's ruling could give other Silicon Valley cities the courage to pursue gun control legislation of their own, according to the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The NRA has already challenged the Sunnyvale ruling, filing an emergency motion late Wednesday in response to the Measure C decision. NRA attorney Chuck Michel did not immediately return a call for comment.

Sunnyvale is still fighting a second lawsuit triggered by the gun ordinance, one filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by gun store U.S. Firearms. The suit challenges a section of the new city ordinance that requires gun-sellers to keep two years worth of records on ammo sales and requires gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons within 48 hours.

San Francisco law firm Farella Braun + Martel is representing Sunnyvale pro bono for both lawsuits.

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

7 Comments

  1. Good for the citizens of Sunnyvale and San Francisco who still have a conscience and the intelligence to vote accordingly. It’s a great day when the lives of innocent children trump rhetoric and greed! There is hope.

    • Blah, Blah, Blah. “Do it for the Children”? This is a representative Republic, not a democracy, where the majority get to impose their will on everyone, and trump our Constitution. If the majority votes to permit slavery, should we do it for the children? They might be “safer” in protected environments. Should we inter in re-education camps all those who believe in the Second Amendment? (Wait, I take that back, you would vote for that one). The Constitution protects the rights of ALL Americans, even those with locally held minority opinions. Change it if you can, Until then, remember that it is there to protect YOU, and that these silly, simplistic bans only make you FEEL better, but have no effect on those who are determined to cause harm. IF someone is willing to defy laws against murder, how likely is it that he or she will obey the law that limits magazine capacity?

  2. It is against California law for local governments to pass gun control laws. Only the State Legislature in California has that authority under California Law.

  3. No, the judge is not incompetent. He is simply wrong about that this law does not violate the second amendment. The judge in this case is a federal judge, not a state judge, federal judges do not adjudicate state laws. And I’m not wrong, look up California State preemption.

    California law (§53071 GC) restricts county and city authorities from enacting firearm regulations. This provides for uniform firearm laws and prevents situations found in other states (such as New York) where traveling with an otherwise legal firearm could put a citizen at risk of violating local city ordinances.

    CAL. GOV. CODE § 53071 : California Code – Section 53071
    “It is the intention of the Legislature to occupy the whole field of regulation of the registration or licensing of commercially manufactured firearms as encompassed by the provisions of the Penal Code, and such provisions shall be exclusive of all local regulations, relating to registration or licensing of commercially manufactured firearms, by any political subdivision as defined in Section 1721 of the Labor Code.”

    So there is the law, suck it idiot.

    • My bad, Whyte is a Federal judge.

      The “whole field of regulation of the registration or licensing of commercially manufactured firearms as encompassed by the provisions of the Penal Code” seems to mean that a municipality can’t enact anything that affects the State’s laws on the “registration and licensing” of firearms. If you read the Sunnyvale municipal code it exempts a whole bunch of situations from the large capacity magazine prohibition. I’m guessing that it does it so that it doesn’t infringe on the state’s laws on the “registration and licensing” of firearms.

      Here’s one such exemption:

      (5) Any person who has been issued a license or permit by the California Department of Justice pursuant to Penal Code Sections 18900, 26500-26915, 31000, 32315, 32650, 32700-32720, or 33300, when the posses-
      sion of a large-capacity magazine is in accordance with that license or permit;

      The NRA’s lawyers aren’t arguing what you’re arguing. They must know something that you don’t.

  4. Since when was the 2nd Amendment about SELF DEFENSE? Anyway, there must have been lines of people both criminals and normal people waiting to turn in their now illegal magazines. Lol!