A San Francisco ban on gun ownership in public housing is unconstitutional and unfairly prevents its poorest residents from defending themselves, according to a lawsuit filed against The City on Friday by the National Rifle Association.
The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in San Francisco, comes one day after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies to individual citizens. Anti-gun-control groups have promised a series of lawsuits challenging state and local ordinances in the wake of the decision, and they also are suing Chicago.
Along with the NRA, the other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Washington-based Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and an unnamed resident of San Francisco’s Valencia Gardens public housing complex. The resident is a gay man who owns a gunfor protection against hate crimes, according to the court filing.
The lawsuit, which seeks to overturn both The City’s ordinance and the San Francisco Housing Authority’s lease provision, touched off a war of words Friday between Mayor Gavin Newsom and one of the plaintiffs.
Newsom said The City would fight vigorously against any "assault by the NRA." He challenged the organization’s director to spend time in San Francisco’s public housing projects to see firsthand the suffering caused by guns.
Newsom also pointed out that the Bush administration previously had approved the lease provision prohibiting gun possession in The City’s public housing, through the federal Housing and Urban Development Department, and suggested the NRA take it up with the president.
Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, responded that Newsom himself is in need of a visit to a public housing complex.
"Maybe the mayor should see what it’s like to live there and have no way to protect himself," he said. "Just because you’re poor and live in public housing doesn’t mean you don’t have the same rights everyone else does."
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he was confident local gun measures are on sound footing and would survive legal challenges.
"I intend to vigorously defend our common-sense city ordinances that protect public safety from gun violence," Herrera said in a statement.
News of the legal challenge came on the same day Newsom, along with District Attorney Kamala Harris and police Chief Heather Fong, held a press conference to announce a slate of new gun violence reduction initiatives, including $1,000 rewards for tips leading to the arrest of a person using or possessing an illegal firearm, and beefed-up gun trafficking and homicide units.