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San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against five out-of-state companies he claims were selling kits that contain all the parts necessary to assemble normal capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds. From cbslocal.com:
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Thursday sued five online gun equipment suppliers selling disassembled large-capacity ammunition magazines as “repair kits” in an alleged attempt to get around state laws.
The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that Badger Mountain Supply, 7.62 Precision, Shooters Plus, LAK Supply and Buymilsurp.com are engaging in unfair or fraudulent business practices and seeks penalties of $2,500 in penalties for each individual violation.
Possession of normal capacity magazines, that had been possessed before January 1, 2000, had been grandfathered in the law. Magazines do not have serial numbers, so it is very difficult to prove when they were purchased.
California has continued to restrict regular magazine ownership with stricter and stricter laws. There has been little enforcement. In 2013, Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against four companies that sold magazine parts kits.
Last year, California banned the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, starting in 2017. Some time is given to either convert or get rid of the standard capacity magazines.
It is not clear if unassembled kits containing the parts of standard capacity magazines, are legally considered the same as the assembled magazines. But the new law may make it illegal to bring such kits into California.
If a company is breaking the law, the normal course of action is to charge them with a crime. Using civil lawsuits allow governments to bypass normal Constitutional protections in criminal cases. They do not need warrants, or probable cause, to file a lawsuit. Governments have deep pockets that allow them to destroy companies financially without ever winning a case.
The City Attorney is an elected office in San Francisco. A lawsuit is a way to gain publicity without spending campaign money. Attacking out of state gun accessory companies is politically popular in the City.
The protections against frivolous lawsuits have been eroded over the decades. This sort of lawsuit is viewed as legitimate in the courts. A partial solution to abuse was found in the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, the PLCAA. But the PLCAA protects against liability suits. These suits are for “unfair or fraudulent business practices”.
One of the defendants in the lawsuit has set up a gofundme page to help in their defense. They are 7.62 Precision. At the gofundme page they claim the San Francisco lawsuit is harassment. They say they have not broken any laws, and that they have not sold any magazine kits to California for some time. From the gofundme.com page:
The City of San Francisco, on behalf of the People of California, is suing 7.62 Precision and several other companies for selling and advertising magazine repair kits to residents of the state of California. This is not a criminal case, but a misuse of taxpayer money and the court system to attack out-of-state companies and Second Ammendment rights. It is a political grandstanding move using civil lawsuits.
If the City of San Francisco actually cared about what they claim, they could have simply contacted 7.62 Precision and we would have proved that we had stopped selling these kits as a result of a change in California law.
It is difficult to know precisely what is fact in this case. San Francisco Attorney Dennis Herrera claims he is protecting Californians with the lawsuit. But there is no link to any specific harm with any specific customer to the sued companies.
7.62 Precision claims that they are being subjected to harassment.
To win, the Government of San Francisco does not have to win in court. It only has to bankrupt companies with legal fees for their defense. It is a lopsided fight.
By Dean Weingarten