The state Supreme Court refused today to block local bans on semiautomatic assault rifles in the cities of Los Angeles, Berkeley and Stockton and in Santa Clara County.
The court instead issued a brief order saying the four suits challenging the ordinances were to be transferred to the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The high court did not halt enforcement of the measures and set no timetable for the appeals court to hear the cases.
The suits, filed by local gun owners with the assistance of the National Rifle Assn., contend that state laws on gun purchase, ownership and registration prevent cities and counties from passing more stringent laws.
Spurred by School Case
The local ordinances were passed in response to the bloodshed in a Stockton schoolyard Jan. 17, when Patrick Purdy used a semiautomatic AK-47 rifle to kill five elementary school children and wound 29 other pupils and a teacher. He then shot himself to death with another gun.
The local ordinances forbid sale and possession of assault weapons. Different versions of bills outlawing certain types of semiautomatic rifles statewide have been passed by the state Assembly and Senate. Under their current versions, neither bill would take effect until next year.
The lawsuits, filed directly in the Supreme Court, asked the court to strike down the local measures. Today’s order, signed by Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, allowed the suits to continue but refused the request to hear the cases in the Supreme Court without first going through a lower court.
Wide Effect Expected
Reginald Steer, who filed the NRA-funded suits on behalf of the gun owners, said he was “happy to have these issues before one appellate court.”
He noted the appeals court’s ruling could have statewide effect. Steer said he expects the court to act quickly on his request to block enforcement of the ordinances.
“My guess is that the Supreme Court is just very busy and decided to spread the burden by sending this to the Court of Appeal,” Steer said.
He said one reason the high court refused to halt enforcement of the ordinances may have been that all of the gun owners filing suit declared that they had removed their assault rifles from places covered by the ordinances, so “they’re not at risk of prosecution right now.”