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Friday, November 18, 2011

Gun Rights Crusaders Target State Over Definition of "Assault Weapon"

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Hell yeah I got a license for it!
  • Hell yeah I got a license for it!

The term "assault weapon" has always rankled Second Amendment absolutists. Handled properly, an umbrella could be an "assault weapon." Considering the purpose of a weapon, the term "assault weapon" is rather redundant.

In this state it's also "unconstitutionally vague" according to a lawsuit filed this week by a band of gun rights crusaders.

The plaintiffs in the case, filed Thursday in Oakland, are the Calguns Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation, and Brendan John Richards. The latter is an Iraq vet who managed to get himself arrested and his guns impounded -- twice. The former are two litigious firearms aficionado groups who have made a cottage industry out of suing cities and states (you may recall the Second Amendment Foundation successfully forcing Muni to accept advertising in which people brandish firearms).

In both of Richards' confrontations with the law, he and the arresting

officer differed on whether the firearms in the ex-Marine's trunk fit

the definition of "assault weapons." In both cases, Richards lost the argument, was arrested, had his guns taken away, and spent

several days in jail while his family ponied up bail money. And,

finally, in both cases, weapons experts overruled the arresting

officers, declaring Richards' armory were not "assault weapons" -- all

charges were dismissed, and Richards got his non-assault weapons back.

Now, naturally, he's taking everybody to court.

To take a shot at the nitty-gritty of this case, Richards' first arrest took place last year at a Sonoma County Motel 6 during an investigation of a "disturbance," about which the suit does not go into detail.

The plaintiff saw fit to tell a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy that there were unloaded firearms in his trunk. The deputy seized two pistols and a rifle -- the suit, again, does not offer more salient details -- and arrested Richards on two counts of assault weapon possession and four counts of "possession of large capacity magazines." Those charges were eventually dismissed, however, when a state expert on firearms ruled the guns did not meet the criteria of "assault weapons"

(For those who know their firearms, the semiautomatic pistol "had a properly installed bullet button, thus rendering the firearm incapable of accepting a detachable magazine that could only be removed from the gun by the use of a tool.")

click to enlarge weapon_list.png
In August of this year, Richards once again had a brush with the law. He once again told a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy he had unloaded weapons in his trunk. The deputy seized a "Springfield Armory M1A" from the vehicle, and Richards was arrested and incarcerated. Yet, once again, a state firearms expert ruled that this gun was not an "assault weapon."

In brief, the gun enthusiasts claim the state's "Assault Weapon Statutes and Regulations" are "vague and ambiguous on their face as related to Richards' arrests." The plaintiffs claim the state's laws are "hopelessly vague and ambiguous as applied; and thus an infringement on the Second Amendment." The state's regulations, then are "unconstitutionally vague," and "mere possession of a firearm, when otherwise lawful, cannot support a finding of probable cause to believe a crime has been committed."

Richards wants the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office to undergo more training related to California's Assault Weapon Statutes and Regulations -- which he'd also like to see taken out and shot as unconstitutional.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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