A San Francisco law that requires handguns in the home to be stored in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock was left in place by the U.S. Supreme Court today.
The high court refused to hear an appeal by the National Rifle Association, a retired police officers’ association and six San Francisco residents, who claimed the law violated their constitutional Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The law, enacted by the city in 2007, was intended to reduce the risks of accidents and suicides, especially among children and teenagers. The storage requirements apply when a gun is not being physically carried by a person over the age of 18.
A year after the law was passed, the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote in a landmark decision known as the Heller case that the federal constitutional right to bear arms extends to individual gun possession. It said law-abiding citizens have a right to possess guns for self-defense, but that some limits are permissible.
The gun owners claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco in 2009 that the law violated that doctrine by denying them practical access to their guns precisely when “the need for self-defense is most likely to arise – when they are asleep in their homes in the dark of night.”
The result of the law is “that a law-abiding homeowner cannot have a readily useable handgun on the nightstand, but instead must fumble for the reading glasses and the lockbox while an intruder roams the premises,” NRA lawyers wrote in the appeal.
San Francisco lawyers argued in opposition that the measure didn’t impede the right to use a gun because lockboxes using new technology such as fingerprint scans can be opened in seconds.
“Handguns stored in modern lockboxes can quickly and easily be retrieved in the event of a self-defense emergency,” the attorneys wrote.
The NRA and the gun owners appealed to the high court after a federal trial judge and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld the city law.
Two of the Supreme Court’s nine justices, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, said in a written dissent that they believed the law “burdens the core of the Second Amendment guarantee” and that the court should have taken up the case.
The court majority turned down the appeal in a brief unsigned order without giving its reasoning.
The lawsuit was one of a series of challenges to gun laws filed by the NRA and other groups around the nation in recent years to test the limits of the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera said, “Today’s denial and dissent give me hope that the pendulum’s swing toward unfettered gun access may finally have reached its pivot point, and that cities like mine may be freer to enact common sense gun safety laws than we’ve believed over the last several years.
“I’m gratified that San Francisco’s common sense gun safety law stands,” Herrera said in a statement.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News