Huntington Beach is taking legal action to try to stop a resident from circulating a petition seeking to put a proposed ban on semiautomatic and automatic guns on the city's Nov. 6 election ballot.
City Attorney Michael Gates filed a lawsuit April 24 in Orange County Superior Court against Daniel Horgan, a local real estate agent and mortgage broker, contending the petition is "unconstitutional, invalid and not entitled to a place on the ballot."
Horgan's proposed law would make possession and sale of semiautomatic and automatic firearms in Huntington Beach a felony by April 1. Such weapons already in circulation would have to be surrendered to the Police Department by Jan. 1, though there would be a three-month probationary period to comply.
"These weapons are a clear and imminent danger to our community," Horgan wrote in a notice of intent to circulate the petition that he filed with the city in November.
Gates' suit argues that Horgan's petition places the city at odds with the Constitution's Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. Gates also contends the proposal isn't presented as legislation that the city could adopt.
"We have to do what's right for the community," Gates said Thursday. "We can't let any citizen with an idea try and stop federal law."
According to city officials, Horgan's Committee to Reduce Gun Violence needs about 12,000 signatures from Huntington Beach registered voters by June 2 for the measure to qualify for the November ballot.
Horgan, a Huntington Beach resident since 1984, said Thursday that the petition is "locked at less than 1,000" signatures, though he has been getting the word out, mainly via direct mailers.
"The support hasn't been there for this petition," said Horgan, who said he was inspired to act after seeing "news of another shooting."
"It's a little too extreme," he said of his proposal. "That being said, the people who support what we're doing agree this problem isn't going anywhere and it's just going to get worse."
Though the petition is unlikely to land on this year's ballot, Horgan said he anticipates further action.
"I've never done anything like this before," he said. "It's too bad I went too extreme in verbiage, and in hindsight, I would've worded the petition differently."