The state Supreme Court was asked Wednesday to prevent Los Angeles and other California municipalities from enforcing new ordinances barring the sale and possession of military-style assault rifles.
Two suits backed by the National Rifle Assn. were filed with the court by gun owners in Los Angeles and Stockton contending that current laws enacted by the state Legislature preempt local communities from adopting their own restrictions on firearms.
The five gun owners challenging the Los Angeles ordinance argued that the city's measure "runs roughshod" over the state's program banning and restricting such weapons as machine guns, sawed-off shotguns, tear-gas and concealable firearms.
Lawyers for the gun owners urged the justices to take jurisdiction of the cases immediately and to issue an order blocking enforcement of the ordinances until a hearing can be held to determine their legality.
Wednesday's action officially brings to the state's highest court the fierce debate over semiautomatic weapons that emerged after the attack on a Stockton schoolyard by a drifter armed with an AK-47 assault weapon. Five children were killed and 29 wounded in the Jan. 17 incident.
Since the shooting, at least eight California communities have passed ordinances banning assault rifles. Similar measures are pending before the Legislature and Congress.
Lawyers for the cities have not yet filed briefs with the state Supreme Court. But previously, lawyers for the city of Los Angeles argued that while the state may have exclusive control over registration of guns, municipalities may restrict sale and possession. City lawyers contended that urban communities have a need to restrict semiautomatic weapons that may not be present elsewhere in the state.
State Law Cited
In petitions to the court Wednesday, the gun owners, all of whom said they possessed weapons subject to the ordinances' restrictions, cited state law that says "it is the intention of the Legislature to occupy the whole field of regulation" of commercially manufactured firearms.
"Only this court's mandate can prevent undermining the state's careful and comprehensive regulation of the possession of firearms that is now threatened by a patchwork of local ordinances," the gun owners said in their challenge to the Los Angeles ordinance.