San Fransisco gun lock requirement case up for Supreme Court review

This week the highest court in the land has scheduled review of a case backed by gun rights groups and 26 states challenging San Francisco’s law requiring guns to be locked up, even at home.

This comes in the latest installment of the saga over Jackson v. City of San Francisco, which was unanimously rejected by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last March who upheld a district court’s ruling that the city’s gun lock law was valid.

The case has been winding its way through federal courts since 2009. It challenged the city and county of San Francisco over local laws implemented in 2007 that compelled gun owners to secure guns either locked inside a container or disabled with a trigger lock.

Although the appeals court found in 2014 that the city’s law was, “not a substantial burden on the Second Amendment right itself because it did not prevent an individual from possessing a firearm in the home,” attorneys general in no less than 26 states have filed briefs with the Supreme Court arguing the opposite.

A primary reason for this is that the San Fransisco law flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s own 2008 ruling in the Heller case in which Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that such requirements violate the Second Amendment which provides for a, “lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”

Submitted to the high court in January, Jackson has been distributed for conference by the justices four times since then and has been rescheduled on each occasion.

If Jackson is accepted by the court, it will be one of the first gun rights cases the high court has agreed to hear in the past several batches of petitions. In 2013, the court refused two different requests for cases involving the right to carry firearms outside the home.

Last February, the court batted away three out of three gun rights cases without comment. Shortly thereafter, the court declined another concealed carry case, Drake v. Jerejian, even though 19 state attorney generals and 34 members of Congress supported it.

While all of these cases involving law-abiding gun owners seeking the protection of the Second Amendment were declined, others that involved criminals and firearms possession were heard.

The high court ruled on two gun cases last year: one concerning domestic violence convictions and another on straw purchases. The latter, in which police charged a man who bought a handgun for an uncle with no felony convictions, was upheld in a split 5-4 ruling. The deciding vote in that case was Justice Anthony Kennedy.

When deciding on the landmark Second Amendment cases Heller v. DC and McDonald v. Chicago, Kennedy lined up with the conservative justices, but in 2014, he went against the grain.

However, Kennedy was back on board for this week’s unanimous decision in the case of Tony Henderson, a former federal agent who served six months on drug charges and as such lost his gun rights. The court held that while Henderson lost his rights to possess his guns, he could still sell or transfer them to a third party. The opinion in that case was notably penned by Justice Kagan, often cited as one of the court’s most liberal members.

Those connected with the case urged caution in reading the tea leaves of the now-fifth distribution for conference in the San Francisco case.

“The court’s repeated delays in announcing its decision about the Jackson case doesn’t necessarily signal an inclination to accept the case for review,” attorney C.D. Michel told Monday. “However, it does indicate that at least some of the judges are considering the case very carefully.”

Michel advised that even if the court elects not to take Jackson – as the justices only accept about 125 cases for review each year from about 5,000 requests – there could still be progress.

“Even if review is turned down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dissenting opinion that might give us some much-needed insight into how the court perceives the ongoing development of Second Amendment jurisprudence,” Michel said.

Jackson v. San Fransisco is scheduled for conference on May 21.

Latest Reviews