The National Rifle Association sued the city of San Francisco on Friday to overturn its ban on handguns in public housing, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a handgun ban in the nation’s capital.
The legal action follows a similar lawsuit against the city of Chicago over its handgun ban, filed within hours of Thursday’s high court ruling.
In San Francisco, the NRA was joined by the Washington state-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a gun owner who lives in the city’s Valencia Gardens housing project.
The gun owner, who is gay, says he keeps the weapon to defend himself from “sexual orientation hate crimes.” He was not identified in the complaint because he said he fears retaliation.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said that the Supreme Court ruling didn’t address gun bans on government property and that he is “confident that our local gun control measures are on sound legal footing and will survive legal challenges.”
San Francisco also requires residents to keep guns in lockboxes or equip them with trigger locks. That law, passed by the county supervisors last year, wasn’t challenged in Friday’s lawsuit.
Citywide gun ban already overturned
A state appeals court has overturned a broader citywide gun ban that voters approved in 2005.
The Chicago lawsuit challenges the city’s 1982 ordinance making it illegal to possess or sell handguns there.
NRA lawyer C.D. Michel said both lawsuits were necessary to expand the Supreme Court’s ruling beyond Washington, a federal district, to states and cities.
“The Supreme Court decisions was very encouraging,” Michel said. “But it is just a start.”
But gun-control advocates, acknowledging the Supreme Court decision as a defeat, pointed to language in the 5-to-4 ruling, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, upholding “reasonable” restrictions as their basis for defending gun laws wherever they could.
“After the ... ruling, as before, approximately 80 Americans will continue to die from guns every day,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Our weak or nonexistent gun laws contribute to the thousands of senseless gun deaths and injuries in this country that occur each year.”
But, Helmke said, “it’s clear that what the court did today is they limited the extremes. You can no longer have near-total prohibitions on guns, but reasonable restrictions on guns.”
Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, which has suffered a recent spate of gun violence affecting everyone from schoolchildren and teachers to the elderly, fervently criticized the ruling, calling it “a very frightening decision” that was incongruent with the Supreme Court’s own security policies.
“You can’t carry a gun into the Supreme Court,” Daley said. “You can’t carry a gun in and around the Capitol building. You can’t get into a capital building without being searched,” Daley said. “So why should the streets of our American cities be open to someone carrying a gun?