A federal appellate court shot a hole in gun owners’ attempts to overturn Sunnyvale's law restricting high-capacity gun magazines, saying the law is constitutional and a perfectly appropriate response to crack down on gun violence.
Former Mayor Tony Spitaleri, who fought vigorously for the measure, considers it a victory for Sunnyvale.
"The reaction is great — I always felt what we had proposed was a commmon sense law and didn't take away the rights of gun owners. It was really more about protection of the community," he said.
Chuck Michel, an attorney representing the NRA, issued this statement, saying: "An appeal of this decision is already being prepared, in addition to a separate lawsuit on preemption grounds that will be filed against Sunnyvale within the week."
But Spitaleri said: "The citizens overwhelmingly supported this law and I believe it will stand all the way to the Supreme Court or where the NRA threatens to take us."
A unanimous three-judge 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Wednesday rejected the arguments pro-gun groups including the National Rifle Association, where lawyers have vigorously argued that the large-magazine restrictions violate the Second Amendment and undermine the fundamental interests of gun owners.
"Sunnyvale's interests in promoting public safety and reducing violent crime were substantial and important government interests," 9th Circuit Judge Michael Daly Hawkins in San Francisco wrote for the court. “So, too, were Sunnyvale’s interests in reducing the harm and lethality of gun injuries in general, and in particular as against law enforcement officers.”
In the wake of recent mass shootings, Sunnyvale votes passed Measure C in November 2013. Gun owners must now report firearms thefts to the police within 48 hours, lock up their guns at home and get rid of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Gun dealers must keep logs of ammunition sales.
Spitaleri, a retired Palo Alto fire captain originally from the South Bronx, was inspired to spearhead the measure after he signed onto a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns while attending a mayors conference in Washington, D.C., in 2006. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg co-chaired that coalition, along with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. It was the Newtown, Conn. massacre that got him thinking about what he could do locally about cracking down on guns.
The plaintiffs in the case are Sunnyvale gun owners who want to keep their large-capacity magazines within city limits. They are: Leonard Fyock, Scott Hochstetler, William Douglas, David Pearson, Brad Siefers and Rod Swanson, and they sued the city , mayor and police chief of Sunnyvale. In court papers, they argued Measure C "endangers public safety by giving violent criminals an advantage and decreasing the likelihood that a victim will survive a criminal attack." Dan Walsh, the past treasurer for Measure C, declined to comment Wednesday afternoon on the ruling, saying he needed more time to study it before issuing his opinion.
A San Jose federal judge upheld the law last year, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to put it on hold while the appeal unfolds.
Groups challenging the law can now ask the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with an 11-judge panel, or follow through with their plan to take the issue to the Supreme Court.