Gun industry closely watching Supreme Court case
James Rufus Koren, Staff WriterPosted:03/03/2010 06:06:48 PM PST
If the Supreme Court overturns Chicago's ban on handguns in the city, gun rights advocates say just about every gun law in California, including the state's ban on assault weapons, could be called into question. "They'll all be challenged," said Sam Paredes, executive director of the lobbying group Gun Owners of California, of the state's gun laws. "I would envision that if there are 20,000 regulations, somewhere about 19,500 of them will be challenged in the court system. It will be an amazing thing."
The nation's top court heard arguments this week in the case of McDonald versus City of Chicago. Otis McDonald sued the city over its all-out ban on handguns, saying the Second Amendment gives him the right to have one. The
Joe Chuka handles a CWS M4 Carbine Rifle on Wednesday at Cold War Shooters in Highland. (Gabriel Luis Acosta/Staff Photographer)
court's ruling, due by June, could hold that the Second Amendment, like the First Amendment, applies to state and local governments, not just to the federal government. Four of the nine justices, all conservatives, suggested by their questions they were leaning toward siding with the plaintiffs. A fifth conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, did not speak during the arguments but has been a strong supporter of gun rights.
A decision for the plaintiffs would open the door to challenges of gun laws across the nation.
Among the California gun laws that could be challenged are the state's prohibition on assault weapons, such as the AR-15 and the AK-47.
Paredes said the court could hold, on future challenges, that the Second Amendment intends to allow citizens to arm themselves with the weapons used by the military, which would include assault weapons currently outlawed in California.
The state's guidelines for allowing local officials to grant concealed-carry weapon permits could also be challenged. City police chiefs and county sheriffs can deny concealed weapon permits for essentially no reason, gun rights advocacy groups say.
"If they're going to regulate concealed-carry (permits), then legal, exposed, loaded carrying would have to be allowed in California," said Mike McCurdy, owner of Mike's Discount Guns in Montclair. "That's an argument that's going to be raised."
Gun store owners, meanwhile, say fewer gun restrictions wouldn't necessarily be a boon to business.
It's been fear of more gun restrictions that have driven sales in the past, McCurdy said. Following President Barack Obama's election, many gun enthusiasts flocked to gun stores because they thought the new president would enact tougher gun control laws, he said.
"That doubled and tripled and quadrupled our sales of guns and ammunition," McCurdy said. "Just a rumor of a possibility like that increases the likelihood to buy."
So making more guns available and easing restrictions, he said, might not bring in customers.
"If it looks like there will be a less restrictive list, business might slow down," he said.
As far as assault weapons go, Bethany Richards, whose father owns Cold War Shooters gun store in Highland, said many customers are attracted to weapons that look like banned assault weapons.
"Because there are so many laws, lots of people want them," Richards said. "I think people want what they can't have. I think gun laws are making (AR-15)-style weapons more wanted."
Cold War Shooters specializes in such weapons, but Richards said other gun stores that don't stock "exotic" weapons might might start doing so if the assault-weapon ban were overturned.
But Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said he doesn't think that will happen.
The important part of the court's ruling will not be whether the Second Amendment applies to state and local goverments, but rather how the court recommends state and local gun laws be reviewed, he said.
"We felt better after (Tuesday's) arguments than we did before," he said.
Hamm said the justices seemed to indicate that many or most state and local gun control laws will be deemed constitutional.
"Chief Justice (John) Roberts said there are still going to be political decisions made at the state and local level on reasonable regulations," Hamm said. "We thought the questions the justices asked yesterday were remarkably promising."
[line]California gun laws that might be vulnerable to challenge: Assault-weapon law: Bans certain types of weapons categorized as assault weapons; bans some weapons by name and also includes prohibitions on certain features, such as magazines holding more than 10 bullets. Gun owners say may of those features are cosmetic only.
Safe handgun laws: Requires handguns to include safety features, such as an indicator that shows when the gun is loaded and a mechanism that prevents the gun from being fired when the magazine is removed. Gun sellers say that's limited the number of gun models they're able to sell.
Concealed weapon permits: Some states say law enforcement agencies "shall issue" concealed weapon permits, while California says jurisdicions "may issue" them at their discretion. In many California counties, including Los Angeles County, it's rare for officials to issue such permits. Gun rights advocates say that's capricious and infringes on gun owners' rights.
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