restriction of .50-caliber weapons challenged


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fjolnirsson
June 6, 2004, 05:10 AM
Article Last Updated: Friday, June 04, 2004 - 3:17:39 AM PST Rifle ban disputed in federal court

Contra Costa County restriction on sale of .50-caliber weapons
challenged by group



By Tamara Grippi, STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO -- A coalition of gun enthusiasts, publishers, manufacturers and retailers sued in federal court Thursday challenging Contra Costa County's ban on the sale of .50-caliber rifles.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, charges that the county ordinance violates First Amendment free speech rights and is preempted by state law.

The Board of Supervisors approved the law prohibiting the sale of .50-caliber rifles in the unincorporated county April 6.

Attorney Chuck Michel predicted that the court case would have statewide implications and could reverse a 1998 Appeals Court decision upholding the right of cities to ban "Saturday Night Specials."

"We think this will put a lid back on local authorities' (ability) to regulate," Michel said.



In pursuing the suit, the California Rifle and Pistol Association joined with the Side by Side Society, California Association of Firearms Retailers, Fifty Caliber Shooters Association, Double Gun Journal, Sports Afield, Barrett Firearms Manufacturing and county resident Eric Williams.

In addition to the county, Contra Costa's sheriff, City Clerk and the individual supervisors who approved the ordinance, including John Gioia, Mark DeSaulnier, Gayle Uilkema and Federal Glover, are named in the suit.

The supervisors cited public safety concerns as the impetus for approving the ordinance. They have pointed to the damage the rifles could do to such industrial targets as refineries, telecommunications towers and railroad cars.

Gun rights advocates have been dubious of the board's in- tentions and have pointed to the fact that the unincorporated county only has two gun dealerships, and neither one sells .50-caliber rifles.

The lawsuit argues that Contra Costa's ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution, the state Constitution and California state law.

The county's ordinance states that "no person shall sell, give, transfer ownership of, transfer, offer for sale, or display for sale any large caliber firearm."

The lawsuit argues the ordinance bans advertisements for .50-caliber rifles in magazines and infringes on the publishers' right to commercial free expression.

The suit goes on to state the ordinance effectively bars such magazines, journals and newsletters from being distributed in Contra Costa County. Dealers would be similarly denied the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment, according to the suit.

Supervisor Gioia dismissed the free speech argument as a stretch.

"The idea that preventing the sale of high powered weapons violates someone's right to free speech is a ridiculous argument," Gioia said.

The county was expecting the lawsuit and is prepared to vigorously defend itself, he added.

The suit also contends the county's ordinance is preempted by the state's Destructive Device law, which only regulates firearms greater than .60 caliber.

"The state specifically excluded and intended to exclude .50-caliber," Michel said. "So the county can't come in and contradict the state's authority."

Gioia said the county is confident that its law does not conflict with state law.

"Our belief is that our ordinance is legally sustainable and well thought out," he said.

The lawsuit argues that the county law violates several other aspects of the U.S. Constitution, including the rights to due process and equal protection guaranteed in the 14th Amendment.

The equal protection argument is based on the fact that the county ordinance allows a "special exemption" for peace officers, according to the suit.

"It would allow any police officer to come in and buy a gun, even if it wasn't for work," Michel said.

Meanwhile Gioia wondered why the suit wasn't based on the argument often stated publicly by gun rights advocates -- the protection afforded by the Second Amendment.

"That's the one they mention publicly but it's not the one they win on," he said.

Michel questioned why the county decided to pursue the ban in the first place.

"The supervisors decided to make a symbolic statement and this is my clients' statement in response," he said.

Tamara Grippi covers Contra Costa County. She can be reached at (925) 416-4882 or at tgrippi@angnewspapers.com .

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killermarmot
June 6, 2004, 05:44 PM
these people make me sick and gayle uilkema is my bloody representative :banghead:

"That's the one they mention publicly but it's not the one they win on,"

well you shmuck maybe that's because you people are under the insane perception that somehow the sentance "the right of the people to keep and bare arms shall not be infringed" somehow doesn't mean the people it means cops who of course aren't people...... fools.

I love how when they were arguing for this ban they said the 50s would be used to shoot down planes. Thing is, well first that's absurd, 2nd it wouldn't take a fifty if you hit a taxiing plane witha well placed 338, but they don't say .50 BMG specificly they just say large caliber. so, yeah all those crimes with muzzle loading 50 cal blackpowder guns god how could we not have banned them sooner.
Sorry bout the rant but It makes me so angry to see this stuff happening in my own back yard and calling them just gets me smart a#$ soccer mom responces. :banghead:

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