BELLEVUE, WA – The Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in California, seeking to have the state’s definition of so-called “assault weapons” declared unconstitutionally vague.
Joining SAF and Calguns in the lawsuit is Brendan John Richards, an Iraq combat veteran who served as a U.S. Marine, and whose arrest and six-day incarceration in the Sonoma County jail – and subsequent dismissal of all charges – was the catalyst for this legal action. Named as defendants are California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the California Department of Justice, the City of Rohnert Park and police officer Dean Becker.
Richards was jailed in May 2010 after Officer Becker, investigating a disturbance at a motel where Richards was staying, learned that Richards had two pistols and a rifle, all unloaded, in the trunk of his car. Becker, arrested Richards for unlawful possession of an assault weapon. However, in September of last year, the charges were dismissed by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office, based on a report from the state Department of Justice that showed none of the guns met the state’s definition of an assault weapon.
“California’s law allows possession of a variety of firearms that do not meet the state’s assault weapons definition, which we believe is unconstitutionally vague,” noted SAF Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. “Mr. Richards was jailed for almost a week, when he had broken no law because a police officer had a conflicting view and the District Attorney’s office believed him.”
“California attempts to make a distinction among firearms where no natural one exists,” noted Calguns Executive Director Gene Hoffman. “The generic definition of so-called ‘assault weapons’ was simply an attempt to prohibit possession of guns that look scary.”
Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys Don Kilmer of San Jose and Jason A. Davis of Mission Viejo. Kilmer said the case is indicative of the way things have become in California.
“Now that the right to keep arms has correctly been recognized as fundamental and applicable to California,” Kilmer said, “gun owners can’t be faced with the practice of ‘arrest them first and let the courts sort it out’ for exercising constitutional rights. That is just how things are done in our country.”