New York, NY – In response to a decision from the Ninth Circuit affirming a lower court ruling that rejected a Second Amendment challenge to a local gun ordinance passed in Sunnyvale, California, Everytown for Gun Safety released the following statement and background on the court’s decision.
Everytown previously filed a friend of the court—or “amicus”—brief in the Ninth Circuit, urging it to uphold Sunnyvale’s ordinance and reject the challenge filed by the National Rifle Association’s west coast counsel.
STATEMENT FROM EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY LEGAL DIRECTOR ELIZABETH AVORE:
“Today’s decision by the Ninth Circuit Court further demonstrates that the Second Amendment does not bar municipalities from adopting reasonable gun laws to protect public safety and deter crime. In December 2013, about a month after the voters of Sunnyvale, California overwhelmingly voted to enact a series of public safety laws, the NRA’s west coast counsel filed a lawsuit attempting to invalidate one of them. Today, a panel of the Ninth Circuit rejected that lawsuit and affirmed a lower court’s decision to uphold Sunnyvale’s law. While this legal battle played out in the courtroom, the real victory is in the streets of Sunnyvale, where the court’s decision to uphold the will of the voters will promote public safety.”
BACKGROUND ON THE LAWSUIT, EVERYTOWN’S AMICUS BRIEF AND THE NINTH CIRCUIT COURT DECISION:
The History and the Lawsuit: Fyock v. City of Sunnyvale, No. 14-15408 (9th Cir.)
- In 1999, the California legislature passed a law prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or transfer of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds — but state law does not prohibit the possession of these magazines. In November 2013, voters in Sunnyvale, California voted by an overwhelming majority to prohibit possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds within city limits.
- About a month after Sunnyvale adopted its new law, the National Rifle Association’s west coast counsel, Michel and Associates, sued Sunnyvale on behalf of residents who owned high-capacity magazines. The lawsuit claimed that the high-capacity magazine ordinance violated the Second Amendment.
- On March 5, 2014, the federal district court in San Jose rejected the challenge and upheld the high capacity magazine ordinance.
- The challengers’ lawyers sought an emergency injunction from the Ninth Circuit, which denied the request on March 6, 2014. Then they sought an emergency injunction from the US Supreme Court; on March 12, 2014, the Supreme Court also denied the request.
- The Ninth Circuit heard arguments later in the year, and issued its decision on March 4, 2015.
Everytown’s Amicus Brief
- Everytown filed an amicus brief urging the Ninth Circuit to recognize that the Second Amendment protects the ability of municipalities to adopt gun laws appropriate to local conditions.
- Everytown’s brief explained that since the nation’s founding, local communities have adopted gun laws that have varied according to local needs, and that these different gun laws have long been understood as consistent with the Second Amendment.
- Everytown also argued that because Sunnyvale’s ordinance allows residents to use any firearms with standard capacity magazines—affording them ample alternative avenues for self-defense—the court should uphold the ordinance under “intermediate scrutiny”—the standard that most courts use in assessing Second Amendment claims.
The Ninth Circuit Decision
- The Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision rejecting the challenge to Sunnyvale’s ordinance.
- The court applied intermediate scrutiny, and held that Sunnyvale’s interests in promoting public safety and reducing violent crime were substantial and important government interests. It further recognized the importance of Sunnyvale’s interests in reducing the harm and lethality of gun injuries in general, and in particular as against law enforcement officers.
- The Ninth Circuit concluded that the lower court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Sunnyvale presented sufficient evidence to show that the ordinance was likely to survive intermediate scrutiny and that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they would likely succeed on the merits of their claim.