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Effect of Monday’s California Order in Parker v California

01/27/2011 @ 6:23pm

The most recent Parker v. California Order, available here, puts into effect that same court’s earlier ruling striking down the statute making it more difficult to buy ammunition (AB 962).  A plain-language, point by point rundown of the legal process, and where that leaves everybody, follows.

  • Plaintiffs filed suit, starting as they must, in one of the California trial courts, asking the trial court to declare the legislature’s statute unconstitutional.
  • Plaintiffs then filed a motion, aimed at getting the statute declared unconstitutional without going through the full legal process.  (The trials were scheduled in 2012.)  These are sometimes called “dispositive” pre-trial motions, since they strike at the entire case, not at procedural matters leading up to trial.  The trial judge apparently perceived the importance of the matter and worked with all of the attorneys to expedite a ruling.  The statute could have driven some sellers out of business.)
  • The trial level court (Superior Court for Fresno County) agreed: statute unconstitutionally vague, no need to hear more, and granted the dispositive motion.
  • Plaintiff’s then asked the Fresno County Superior Court for an Order stopping state agencies from enforcing the unconstitutional statute.  Order granted, and that is what we see here, (same as the link in sentence one) courtesy C.D. Michel, Attorney at Law.
  • Result: It is now the state’s burden to appeal.  Pending an appeal, and unless the appellate court says otherwise, ammunition sales continue as before. If the state does not appeal, then the statute is unenforceable and sales continue as before.

I would like to see all of the documents filed in the case.  From what I am reading, it appears that the plaintiffs sought the fastest ruling they could get and won it on the issue of “unconstitutionally vague.”  That means that the trial judge did not rule on any other issue, and did not have to address what we refer to as Second Amendment issues.  So, if the state appeals, or if the state tries to fix the fatal ambiguities and draws another suit from the plaintiffs, then the next court might get to Second Amendment issues, determining among other things, whether such a broad, imposing restriction violates the right to keep and bear arms.

Note, the states have their own constitutions.  California’s is very interesting. It’s protection of the right to keep and bear arms is implicit, not explicit, but it specifically addresses the right to defend life and protect property:


SECTION 1. All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.

In other words, if the gun controllers in California decide to re-write the ammo statute, try to fix the ambiguities, and get themselves sued again, then the trial court could rule on the basis of the California Constitution instead of the U.S. Constitution, or the court could rule based on the U.S. Constitution alone, or upon both.

Since I am not looking at the entire case file, I could be wrong on some point.  If someone has more full information, please correct me.

Thank you to commenter Josil for bringing this court order to my attention.