Gun Owner Therese Marie Pizzo Loses 2nd Amendment Case
A woman who challenged San Francisco's gun laws as unconstitutional failed to persuade a federal judge that the rules burdened her ability to protect herself and her family.
Therese Marie Pizzo sued The City and County of San Francisco, Mayor Edwin Lee, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Police Chief Greg Suhr, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris, challenging a variety of local and state gun laws.
Pizzo, a lesbian, said in her complaint that she has suffered harassment for her sexual orientation, and gun laws in San Francisco and California prevent her from having a gun to protect herself and her family.
Pizzo claimed in her 2009 lawsuit that she feared threats and assaults in "more rural areas of California and in rural areas out-of-state" and that she has "no way to adequately defend or protect [herself]."
Pizzo challenged state laws that prohibit carrying weapons in public, and San Francisco ordinances making it illegal to discharge firearms in public.
Those discharge ordinances were amended in 2011 to remove references to firearms, and now prohibit only fireworks.
Pizzo also challenged state and county procedural requirements for applying for a concealed-carry weapon, and a county ordinance requiring handguns to be locked in an approved gun safe.
Pizzo said she wants to have a "readily accessible operable handgun ready for immediate use, loaded with proper ammunition, within my home for self-defense, on my person, and in my vehicle," but cannot do so without a concealed-carry permit.
"I will no longer go camping. I will no longer visit Texas unless I am issued a CCW permit," Pizzo said in her declaration.
She also wanted to be able to "use semi-jacketed hollow point ammunition that expands and fragments upon impact." She calls that ammunition better than "full metal jacket" ammo, which is more likely to ricochet and hurt innocent people.
The National Rifle Association filed an amicus brief in support of Pizzo's motion for summary judgment.
The Legal Community Against Violence filed a brief in support of the defendants' cross-motions.
Both the defendants and the NRA claimed that Pizzo did not have standing to challenge the storage and ammunition ordinances. The NRA, however, disputed the legal standard used by the defendants.
In her Dec. 3 order, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken found the storage ordinance does not prohibit Pizzo from having a gun in her vehicle or on her person in her home.
Wilken rejected Pizzo's argument that the ordinance prevents her from making her own decision about whether she can store her gun outside of her gun locker.
"Plaintiff offers no authority to support her argument that this deprivation can support standing, where she has expressed no intention to actually engage in any conduct that may be prohibited by the statute," the judge wrote in a 35-page order.
"Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that there is no material dispute of fact that plaintiff does not have an intention to engage in a course of conduct prohibited by the statute that is not 'vague and unspecified.'"
Wilken agreed with the San Francisco defendants that Pizzo lacked standing to challenge the ammunition ordinance.
"Plaintiff has not offered evidence that she intends to purchase the prohibited ammunition anywhere, including within San Francisco, and thus has not established that the ordinance has caused her an injury-in-fact," the judge wrote.
Finding Pizzo's argument speculative, Wilken granted the defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment.
The City of San Francisco and the state attorney general also argued that Pizzo lacked standing to challenge the concealed-carry permit process because she did not submit proper applications to the police chief or sheriff.
The court agreed that she lacked standing, finding that she did not provide the city with contact information, and that she did not pay the required application fee.
Finally, because the San Francisco ordinance banning the discharge of firearms was repealed in 2011, Wilken found that part of Pizzo's challenge moot.
In November, another San Francisco federal judge shot down a challenge to gun ordinances brought by gun owners and the NRA.
In that action, the plaintiffs claimed the ordinances requiring a trigger lock on handguns and banning certain ammunition was unconstitutional.
The case centered on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down a similar trigger lock ordinance.
In denying the plaintiffs' motion for an injunction, Judge Richard Seeborg found that "Heller left too much unsettled for it to dictate a particular result" in the case.
"Against the backdrop of evolving law, and in the absence of controlling precedent, the conclusion emerges that plaintiffs have failed to show a probability of success on the merits of their claims that the challenged ordinances are constitutionally infirm," Judge Seeborg wrote.
Seeborg noted that "law in this arena undoubtedly will continue to develop" with more precise analytical standards for Second Amendment challenges.