Sunnyvale can enforce gun ordinance, appeals court rules

A federal appeals court decided unanimously Wednesday that the Bay Area city of Sunnyvale can enforce an ordinance prohibiting large-capacity gun magazines.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals clears the way for other cities to pass similar bans. A ban of large-capacity magazines in Los Angeles is headed toward a City Council vote, and San Francisco already has passed a law to outlaw the ammunition devices.

State law prohibits the sale of such magazines, but the city laws go further by barring even their possession.

“Sunnyvale’s interests in promoting public safety and reducing violent crime are substantial and important government interests,” Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, a Clinton appointee, wrote for the court.

Gun owners challenged the ban, passed by voters in 2013, as a violation of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.


The 9th Circuit disagreed, saying the law prohibited only large-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 cartridges and did not strip residents of the right to possess guns in their homes.

Although the panel decided that gun owners were unlikely to prevail in their constitutional challenge, the ruling was limited to whether the lower court erred in refusing to grant a preliminary injunction.

“We need not determine at this juncture whether firing-capacity regulations are among the long-standing prohibitions that fall outside of the Second Amendment’s scope,” Hawkins wrote.

Chuck Michel, a lawyer for the National Rifle Assn., said gun owners would appeal the decision and file another suit against Sunnyvale on different legal grounds.

Tony Schoenberg, a lawyer for Sunnyvale, said attempts to throw out similar bans across the country have failed.

“This case is just a one of a growing line of cases that have affirmed those laws,” he said.
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Times staff writer Catherine Saillant in Los Angeles contributed to this report.