By Chuck Michel
The San Francisco County Board of Supervisors has backed down on a proposed ordinance that would make much of the city into a “gun-free zone” after the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) promised legal action.
San Francisco has long been the California city most opposed to the right to keep and bear arms. In 2003 the city tried to ban handguns entirely. They tried again a few years later. Both attempts were only stopped by lawsuits brought by the SAF, CRPA, and NRA.
In 2015 Highbridge Arms, the last gun store in the city, closed its doors because of impossible to comply with regulations that the city imposed. The San Francisco municipal code is packed with ordinances that make gun ownership difficult. And the city didn’t issue any CCW permits in the years prior to the Bruen decision from the Supreme Court that required them to.
Faced with a new legal reality in light of the Bruen ruling, SFPD is finally issuing CCW permits thanks to prodding from the CRPA as part of CRPA’s CCW Reckoning Project. For the first time in decades, residents of San Francisco have been able to get a license to exercise their constitutional right to carry. Roughly 300 licenses are being processed. But still, San Francisco politicians refuse to respect the Second Amendment and won’t accept the new legal reality that people have a Second Amendment right to carry a firearm in public.
Faced with finally having to issue CCWs, the County Board of Supervisors tried to get around the Supreme Court’s mandate through a law that would have turned much of the city into a “gun-free” zone by prohibiting all carry, even with a CCW permit, on all city property as well as in parks, playgrounds, hospitals, churches, childcare facilities, and even private businesses unless the owner posted a sign saying carry is allowed. Not a lot of those signs were expected. Anyone who posted one would be harassed.
Through their attorneys, CRPA and the Second Amendment Foundation sent a letter to San Francisco politicians explaining why the planned ordinance would be unconstitutional. The letter also pointed out how the proposed ordinance would duplicate planned state-level legislation (SB 2) that’s working its way through Sacramento that would restrict the right to carry in identical ways.
As the letter explained, “San Francisco should wait and see how the inevitable litigation over SB 2 plays out instead of passing a duplicative Ordinance that exposes San Francisco to significant legal expense for its own legal costs and to reimburse our clients’ fees when we prevail in court.”
The city backed off. At its July 13 meeting, the proposed ordinance’s main backer, Supervisor Catherine Stefani, stated that she was pulling the proposed ordinance to “Call of the Chair,” a parliamentary procedure that means it is tabled indefinitely. After first bemoaning the Bruen ruling and running through all the usual gun ban lobby talking points, Stefani explained that she was working with the City Attorney to make sure the ordinance did not conflict with the planned state law that is set to pass (she hopes) later this summer.
Her maneuver was a politician’s face-saving ploy. The ordinance could be revived, however, particularly if SB 2 doesn’t pass. Unfortunately, that’s not likely. SB 2 is Gavin Newsom’s baby, and he’s pushing it hard. CRPA and SAF have that lawsuit teed up and ready to go when and if it becomes law.
The pre-litigation demand letter from CRPA and SAF likely played a decisive role in stopping this planned San Francisco ordinance. CRPA and SAF will continue to oppose efforts to enact draconian gun laws in San Francisco and statewide. We will be ready to challenge unconstitutional laws like SB 2 immediately.
Chuck Michel is Senior Partner at the Long Beach, California Law firm of Michel & Associates, P.C. He is the author of California Gun Laws, A Guide to State and Federal Firearm Regulations now in its 10th edition for 2023 and available at www.calgunlawsbook.com.