FACING NRA LAWSUIT, SAN FRANCISCO ADMITS ITS NEW ORDINANCE DOESN’T BAN HOLLOW-POINT AMMUNITION AFTER ALL
In the face of an NRA lawsuit, on April 5, 2010, the San Francisco Police Department provided formal written confirmation that, contrary to multiple statements by San Francisco politicians who oppose the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, the City’s recently enacted ban on the possession of certain ammunition does not prohibit possession of hollow-point ammunition after all. The City’s late-hour concession was prompted by a pending legal challenge by the NRA.
The new, vaguely crafted ordinance takes effect on April 12, 2013 and purports to ban the possession of ammunition that performs ballistically like the Black Talon ammunition cartridge. City officials repeatedly touted the ordinance as banning possession of all or most forms of hollow-point ammunition, one of the most effective self-defense munitions available. Mayor Edwin Lee publicly declared that it was being enacted because "hollow-point bullets have no reason to be in our homes." Police Chief Greg Suhr, and Board of Supervisors member Malia Cohen, the SF Gate reported, announced that the new law would "bar anyone from possessing hollow-point bullets." Supervisor Cohen then declared during official consideration of the ordinance on January 15, 2013 that "[w]e have restrictions on the sale of hollow-point ammunition. . . . [This ordinance] makes possession of legal forms of ammunition such as hollow-point ammunition . . . illegal."
The City formally introduced the proposal in January of 2013. It worked its way through the legislative process, and on March 4, the NRA submitted an opposition letter warning that immediate litigation was on the horizon should the ordinance be adopted. On March 11, the NRA issued an alert informing San Francisco residents of the pending litigation. On March 12, the City passed the ordinance. On March 13, Mayor Lee signed it into law.
NRA worked to prepare a lawsuit and to seek an injunction hearing before the ordinance took effect on April 12, 2013. Faced with the NRA’s pending litigation, the City backed off and conceded that the ordinance actually does not ban possession of hollow-point ammunition after all. NRA’s lawyers then obtained this letter from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). The letter confirms not only that the the ordinance doesn’t ban hollow-point ammunition, in fact, the new ordinance applies to virtually no ammunition. The SFPD letter clarifies that ammunition must be "identical in all ways" to Black Talon in order to be prohibited under the new ordinance. Black Talon itself has been out of production for nearly two decades. Ammunition experts have reviewed the SFPD’s position, and confirmed that there is no current production ammunition that is identical in all respects or performs identically in all ways to the Black Talon cartridge. So the City’s ordinance basically applies to nothing - save for those few left over Black Talon cartridges that may still be in circulation.
NRA sought more specific information from SFPD, but it wasn’t provided in the SFPD’s letter. For example, NRA experts inquired about the testing procedures that would be performed to determine whether ballistics performances are identical in all respects. And NRA sought detailed information regarding the ballistics performance for Black Talon ammunition to allow the City to establish a baseline for comparison with other ammunition. The SFPD didn’t produce this information, because it most likely hasn’t (and won’t) take these steps. And if the SFPD does decide to engage in such testing procedures, it is a virtual certainty that ammunition performance will not be ballistically identical to Black Talon’s in all respects.
Because this ordinance does not just apply to San Francisco residents, but applies to anyone who is just traveling through San Francisco, gun owners throughout the state should contact the San Francisco Police Department if they want further clarification about what the ordinance covers. The contact point for the Police Department on this issue is Captain Denis F. O’Leary in the Operations Bureau. He can be reached at (415) 553-9154 or via email at Denis.O'Leary@sfgov.org.
The NRA’s attorneys at Michel and Associates, P.C. are now seeking public records to track what, if anything, the City does with this ordinance. The SFPD has suggested it may publish a list of cartridges that it believes are prohibited by the new ordinance. But because no ammunition should perform identically in all respects, the NRA will seek documents identifying the testing that establishes any claim of identical performance that SFPD uses to try to put a cartridge on the list.
If anyone is threatened for a violation of this law or provided with conflicting information, please contact Michel and Associates, P.C.. The NRA’s lawyers will also be working behind the scenes with the San Francisco Public Defender’s office to make sure there are no successful prosecutions under this ordinance.
The NRA is already suing San Francisco over the unconstitutionality of its existing ban on the sale of hollow-point ammunition and its requirement that all handguns be kept locked up in the home when not being carried. That case, Jackson v. City and County of San Francisco, is currently before the Ninth Circuit and seeks to resolve many of the issues left unanswered by the Supreme Court in Heller v. District of Columbia.