Score One for the Good Guys: Cal City Coughs up $400K to NSSF

Score One for the Good Guys: Cal City Coughs up $400K to NSSF
The fee is to recover legal fees paid to fight Pleasant Hill's unconstitutional anti-gun laws.web photo

In a victory for gun rights in the land where gun rights go to die, a settlement approved Monday will compel the California town of Pleasant Hill to pay $400,000 to cover attorney fees for the groups that challenged the city's gun law—a legal battle that spanned three years, according to this story from the East Bay Times.

Back in November 2013, the story says a divided Pleasant Hill city council voted to require a police permit for gun dealers, and to restrict the locations where new sellers can operate in relation to schools, daycare centers, parks, and other businesses.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, along with City Arms East, a Pleasant Hill gun shop, sued the city a month later. This week, the NSSF announced that it and its co-plaintiff have reached an agreement with the city to end the lawsuit.

A release from the NSSF says, “To avoid a trial and reach a settlement, the city modified those aspects of its regulations that the NSSF and City Arms argued were in violation of state law and the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs dropped the suit in February after the city eased some of the restrictions, but subsequently filed a claim to recover nearly $1 million in legal fees, the story says. The $400,000 will be pulled from the city's $14.3 million reserve.

Pleasant Hill did not incur any legal fees during the court battle, as a San Francisco law firm represented the city pro bono, the story says.

“We were successful in our goal to protect the ability of federally-licensed firearms retailers to open, operate and grow their businesses in the City of Pleasant Hill,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.

In the original ordinance, gun stores cannot be located within 150 feet of a residence, within 500 feet of a park, or within 1,000 feet of a daycare center or school. Additionally, store owners and employees must pass a criminal-background check, the story says.

In order to resolve the suit, the council removed the distance requirements between gun shops and massage parlors, adult businesses, and other gun dealers; prohibited firearms sales from residences and further relaxed location restrictions by allowing gun stores to open in commercial areas if the applicant proves any part of the parcel complies with the law's distance provisions, the story says.

Additionally, the changes clarify that existing gun dealers are exempt from the restrictions even if they expand or relocated within the same shopping center, site or if the dealership is sold.

However, the city added a prohibition for gun stores within 1,000 feet of a college or university.

“As we predicted when the city council made its unfortunate decision to go forward with an ordinance, which only put into place duplicative, unneeded regulation and did nothing to enhance public safety, it was very likely that taxpayers would be left paying the tab for what amounts to an unwarranted political decision to target law-abiding businesses,” the NSSF said in a release.

“When the City Council initially adopted the firearms ordinance, the goal was to protect the health and safety of our citizens by putting in place reasonable regulations for firearm dealers to operate safely in Pleasant Hill,” the city said in a written statement.

The city did not, however, offer any explanation specifically as to how quibbling over distances measured in feet between law-abiding businesses, in a state where everyone drives, would do anything to improve public safety.