November 25, 2013
On November 19, the San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association (SFVPOA) filed a lawsuit, supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), in federal court challenging San Francisco’s recent ban on the possession of magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds. A lawsuit is currently being prepared against the City of Sunnyvale, which recently adopted a similar magazine ban. Tens of thousands of law enforcement officers across the country currently possess these common, standard-capacity magazines when they are off duty for self-defense, sport and other lawful purposes. The new magazine confiscation laws will force active police officers in San Francisco and Sunnyvale to surrender their privately-owned magazines – or face criminal liability.
In a recent interview, Larry Barsetti, a plaintiff in the San Francisco lawsuit and a member of the SFVPOA, pointed out that law enforcement officers will be in violation of the ban if they possess any prohibited magazines that were not issued to them for official duties. When asked to comment, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office confirmed that the ordinance “does not prohibit off duty officers from keeping their duty weapons because those weapons are issued to them in connection with their official duties.”
Police officers who have any magazines over ten rounds in their personal collections, or any magazines they were authorized to purchase for off-duty use, must dispose of those magazines. If they don’t, the officers will become criminals.
The same is true for active law enforcement officials in Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale’s Measure C only exempts police officers who possess magazines over ten rounds “while acting within the course and scope of his or her duties.”
Family members of law enforcement officers are also at risk. If an officer leaves the house without locking his or her magazines away, anyone who is present in the home will be in violation of the law.
The misguided laws also place thousands of state and federal law enforcement officials who travel through San Francisco in jeopardy. Many off-duty law enforcement officials lawfully carry a firearm with a magazine that holds more than ten rounds when traveling in other cities and states. Every time these officers travel into San Francisco or Sunnyvale, they will be in violation of the law and subject to criminal prosecution.
San Francisco and Sunnyvale officers, like law-abiding citizens, will have until the first week of March to turn in their prohibited magazines in one of three ways: turn them over to the police (strangely enough), remove them from those cities in the few cases where it might be possible to do legally, or transfer them to a licensed firearms dealer – who cannot give them back.
It appears these cities snuck a limited police exemption into the law to appease law enforcement, but police officials didn’t realize that the law effectively strips them of their personally-owned magazines.
Will San Francisco and Sunnyvale stick to their convictions about removing these magazines from their borders and actively confiscate magazines from officers who unlawfully possess them?