NRA may have missed target

The National Rifle Association will likely dismiss The City from a lawsuit challenging a ban on the possession of firearms in San Francisco’s Housing Authority developments.

In its lawsuit against The City filed in June, the association claimed that a San Francisco ban on gun ownership in public housing is unconstitutional and unfairly prevents its poorest residents from defending themselves.

The lawsuit came one day after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to individual citizens. The Supreme Court case upheld the right for individuals to bear arms, specifically on the federal level.

San Francisco, along with Chicago, became a testing ground for gun advocates to extend the reach of the Supreme Court decision to state and local governments through the 14th Amendment.

The lawsuit sought to overturn both a 2007 local ordinance banning gun possession on county land and a provision in the San Francisco Housing Authority’s lease agreement that prevented residents from keeping a gun on Housing Authority land.

But the NRA failed to tie the city ordinance to the lease provision of the Housing Authority, which is a federal agency. The city ordinance mentions parks and schools, but not federal housing developments.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera called the lawsuit “little more than a publicity stunt that improperly names The City as a defendant, and makes false representations to the court,” after the lawsuit was filed.

If The City is dropped from the lawsuit, the ban becomes an issue that deals primarily with officials who run the Housing Authority. Attorneys for the NRA said that issue — whether residents should have to give up their right to bear arms to live in public housing — is close to resolution.

“The Housing Authority lawsuit was to test the waters on the incorporation issue,” said Chuck Michel, chief attorney for the NRA. “The bigger picture of this issue is that San Francisco has been pushing the envelope of gun control for years.”

Michel indicated that the NRA would likely challenge The City in the future on a number of city ordinances such as Mayor Gavin Newsom’s law requiring guns to be equipped with a trigger lock or a ban on firearms on county land.

Talk of the settlement, which was revealed Friday in a motion to continue the case, comes amid threats from Herrera of monetary sanctions imposed under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The rules prevent litigants from naming an entity in a lawsuit without sufficient evidence.

City Attorney’s Office spokesman Matt Dorsey said Sunday that if San Francisco is released from the lawsuit, it will not seek sanctions.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

The fight for firearms

A look at the progression of the NRA’s lawsuit against San Francisco.

Aug. 1, 2007: The City passes an ordinance banning handguns on county land

June 26: Supreme Court rules the right to keep and bear arms applies to individual citizens

June 27: The NRA and a coalition of gun advocates file a lawsuit against San Francisco and the Housing Authority claiming The City’s ordinance influenced the Housing Authority’s lease provision.

Friday: Both sides indicate that The City will no longer be a part of the lawsuit.

Upcoming: The Housing Authority will have to decide whether to fight the NRA or make a change to the firearms ban in the lease agreement.

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