NRA sues San Francisco on public-housing gun ban
posted at 9:09 am on June 28, 2008 by Ed Morrissey
The NRA has decided not to waste time in the wake of the Heller decision, but to begin pushing on a wide front to dismantle gun bans around the nation. In San Francisco, that means testing a ban on gun ownership in public housing, a new twist on the limits of government intervention in 2nd Amendment affairs. Frisco reacted …. pretty much how you’d expect them to react:
In San Francisco, the NRA was joined by the Washington state-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and a gun owner who lives in the city’s Valencia Gardens housing project as plaintiffs.
The gun owner, who is gay, says he keeps the weapon to defend himself from “sexual orientation hate crimes.” He was not identified in the complaint because he said he fears retaliation.
That’s certainly a good twist for the NRA’s public-relations efforts in the city by the bay. They showed a much better sense of that than Mayor Gavin Newsom, who uttered this deliciously stupid statement in response:
“Is there anyone out there who really believes that we need more guns in public housing?” Newsom said. “I can’t for the life of me sit back and roll over on this. We will absolutely defend the rights of the housing authority.”
Where to start deconstructing this? Let’s start with the beginning. Newsom himself admits that the public-housing gun ban has completely failed to keep guns out of public housing. He then wonders aloud who thinks the residents need more guns. I’d guess that it’s the law-abiding tenants who believe that they need to at least have an opportunity to defend themselves against the thugs and criminals who have armed themselves to the teeth while the city created an entire class of unarmed victims.
And then Newsom shows his true colors with his full-throated cry to defend the rights of — whom? The victims? The law-abiding citizens of San Francisco? No, Newsom girds himself for legal battle to defend the “rights” of the government agency that runs public housing. I’m certain that the founding fathers of this nation didn’t include the 2nd Amendment to protect government against the citizens, but the other way around.
How clueless can one get and still remain in office? (That’s a trick question for anyone who doesn’t know San Francisco.)
This case will definitely provide better clarification of Heller. The DC gun ban reflected the limits of states and cities for general gun ownership restrictions, but a court could easily conclude that the government has more expansive rights on public housing. The city owns the housing and rents it to the tenants. However, such a ruling could have a huge and negative impact on the scope of other rights for public-housing residents. Do they have lesser 4th Amendment rights on search and seizure, too? Can the government place tighter restrictions on speech and the practice of religion in public housing?
The NRA has chosen its next battleground well. Too bad San Francisco didn’t put as much thought into electing its mayor.
Update: Jazz Shaw doesn’t think that the public-housing aspect of the case will hold up against Heller:
While I agree that the apparent differences are interesting, I think there is little to fear. On every level there are reams of legal text on the rights of tenants vs. landlords. While it is tempting to treat public housing differently, in this case the city truly is nothing more than a landlord. While the property owner maintains and can exert tremendous power over what goes on regarding a leased property, I did some quick checking at FindLaw and see nothing which indicates that a landlord has ever been able to supress constitutional rights which do not directly affect the physical property. (i.e. real estate.)
The owner can prevent the tenant from painting the walls, changing the carpeting, or otherwise physically altering the property. However, they can not restrict people of a given religion from renting nor prohibit them from praying inside the property. (This is not to say that a “nod and a wink” situation won’t exist where certain renters are excluded for “other reasons” of course.) The landlord can not claim that the police can enter the rental without a warrant, etc.
The logic is compelling, but right now, one has to ask whether Justice Anthony Kennedy would rely on logic or his impulse to impose his policy considerations, a la Boumediene. Every gun case coming to the court under this composition will hinge on that question. It’s yet another reason why the gun issue remains very relevant to this election, as well as judicial appointments.