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Laurie Mims Defends City of Pleasant Hill in Pro Bono Gun Ordinance Case

Contra Costa Times

The city denies that its firearms ordinance was improperly approved and violates the Constitution, as alleged in a December lawsuit brought by gun advocates.

In a response filed Feb. 6 in Contra Costa Superior Court, the city also argues that the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group based in Newtown, Conn., lacks standing to sue. Furthermore, Pleasant Hill maintains the lawsuit is premature because existing gun dealers have until Nov. 1 to comply with the ordinance.

"It's a standard response," City Attorney Janet Coleson said. "It's the very beginning stages of this litigation."

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a national advocacy group, arranged for San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest to defend the lawsuit pro bono for the city. Coincidentally, Laura Cutilletta, a staff attorney with the Law Center, and Laurie Mims, the attorney handling the case, both live in Pleasant Hill.

On Feb. 27, a judge will set the schedule for the case.

The firearms ordinance requires a police permit for gun dealers. The law also prohibits gun stores from locating within 150 feet of a residence; within 500 feet of a park, another gun dealer, a massage parlor or an adult entertainment venue; or within 1,000 feet of a day care center or school. Existing firearms dealers are exempt from the new location restrictions, but they must submit employees' background information to the Pleasant Hill Police Department. Dealers also must install an alarm system and surveillance cameras and submit an annual report to the police chief detailing compliance with the regulations.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation alleges in its lawsuit that the distance requirements effectively make the law a zoning ordinance. As such, the group claims, the Planning Commission should have reviewed the measure before the City Council approved it.

"We are confident the court will enjoin the city's ordinance because it violates state law and does nothing to improve public safety," Lawrence Keane, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's general counsel and senior vice president, said in a statement.

The lawsuit -- filed with City Arms East, one of Pleasant Hill's four gun dealers -- also claims that by giving the city the right to inspect gun stores without a search warrant, the ordinance violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. The lawsuit further alleges that the ordinance conflicts with state gun and labor laws and requires insurance against liability for criminal conduct. It is impossible to insure, the National Shooting Sports Foundation claims, or gun dealers have statutory immunity from such a requirement.