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Morgan Hill
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September 22, 2020

Judge rules in favor of Morgan Hill gun law

City requires reporting of stolen firearms within 48 hours

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge this week upheld the City of Morgan Hill’s new requirements on the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.

In a lawsuit filed by Morgan Hill resident G. Mitchell Kirk and the California Pistol and Rifle Association, Judge Peter H. Kirwan ruled July 30 that the city’s local firearms restriction ordinance is not in conflict with or otherwise preempted by similar state laws.

In 2018, the Morgan Hill City Council approved an updated firearms ordinance that requires residents to report lost or stolen firearms within 48 hours. An existing state law—Proposition 63—requires residents of California to report lost or stolen firearms within five days.

The CPRA lawsuit against Morgan Hill sought to invalidate the city’s ordinance because it was more restrictive than the state law.

The judge’s ruling, however, clarified that cities in California are allowed to pass their own firearms laws, even if they are stricter than the state law, according to a press release from the Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence.

City officials and the Giffords Law Center—which represented the city in the case—hailed Kirwan’s July 30 ruling upholding the more restrictive local ordinance as a victory for gun safety.

“Our community was able to make progress toward saving lives because of citizens moved to action by the repeated tragedies of our nation’s gun violence epidemic,” Morgan Hill City Attorney Donald Larkin said. “We are pleased that the court recognized and approved our city’s efforts, and rejected this attempt by California’s NRA affiliate to obscure the clear benefits of the ordinance at the expense of the safety of the people of Morgan Hill.”

Kirwan this week denied the plaintiffs’ “motion for summary judgment” and granted a similar request by the city in the case. The rulings mean that the judge has rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments against the city’s ordinance.

The city’s ordinance also requires the safe storage of firearms and a ban on ammunition magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. These requirements were not challenged by the recent lawsuit.

The Gifford Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence is a public interest law center that offers legal assistance to municipalities and other organizations in support of gun control and stricter firearms safety laws.

A press release from Giffords Law Center refers to firearms theft in the U.S. as a “serious problem” that often fuels gun violence or continued illegal sales.

Hannah Shearer, Giffords Law Center Litigation Director, said of this week’s ruling on Morgan Hill’s ordinance, “California’s gun violence prevention laws allow communities to pass stronger local firearm laws—and they have a constitutional right to do so. Morgan Hill’s gun-theft-reporting ordinance is stronger than state law but does not conflict with it. We applaud the court’s decision recognizing that cities and the state of California can work in synergy to combat the gun violence crisis.”

The CPRA is an affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

Dave McCulloch, a spokesperson for CPRA, said of this week’s superior court ruling, “Despite the outcome, we believe the law is on our side—and are already planning the appeal. We will prevail.” 

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