PLEASANT HILL -- The city wants a lawsuit challenging its firearms ordinance tossed out, arguing that the plaintiffs' lack standing to sue and that the City Council followed the law when it approved the measure.
"We believe all of the legal claims and arguments levied by the plaintiffs are without merit," City Attorney Janet Coleson wrote in an email Thursday.
A hearing on the city's motion to dismiss the lawsuit is scheduled for Sept. 12 in Contra Costa Superior Court.
In a lawsuit filed last year, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group based in Newtown, Connecticut, and City Arms East -- one of the five gun dealers in Pleasant Hill -- allege that an ordinance regulating firearms and ammunition sales was improperly approved, duplicates or conflicts with existing law and violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
"The National Shooting Sports Foundation remains confident in the merits of its petition," spokesman Tim Rosales wrote in an email Thursday.
In its Aug. 1 filing, the city says the plaintiffs' "Hail Mary" claims fail and notes that the lawsuit does not allege that the ordinance infringes upon the Second Amendment's guarantee of the right to bear arms. The courts have affirmed the government's right to regulate gun dealers.
"In short, petitioners' claims are no more than the baseless arguments of desperate political opponents, in a last-ditch attempt to get rid of laws they don't like," wrote attorneys from the San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest, which is defending the city pro bono.
After marathon public hearings, a divided council in November voted to require a police permit for firearms and ammunition dealers. Under the ordinance, gun stores cannot locate 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.
Store owners and employees must pass a criminal-background check. Dealers must install an alarm system and surveillance cameras and submit an annual report to the police chief detailing compliance with the regulations.
Existing firearms dealers are exempt from the location restrictions and have until Nov. 1 to comply with the new rules.
In June, the City Council amended the zoning ordinance to incorporate restrictions from the firearms ordinance on where gun stores may operate. Planning commissioners had voted unanimously against recommending approval of the amendments, in part because they believed the rules were redundant and the argument for separating gun shops from massage parlors was flimsy.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation alleges in its lawsuit that the distance requirements essentially make the firearms law a zoning ordinance. As such, the group claims, the Planning Commission should have reviewed the measure before the council approved it.
Pleasant Hill maintains that neither the foundation nor City Arms East has standing to challenge the distance requirements because existing gun dealers don't have to comply with those provisions of the measure. Furthermore, the city contends that it did not violate state zoning law because the firearms ordinance does not change the zoning of any property, nor does it regulate the use, location or size of buildings.
The city's attorneys write in the motion that courts have rejected the plaintiffs' claim that "a comprehensive business licensing ordinance, which has some tangential impact on land use, must be enacted in accordance with the Planning and Zoning law's procedures."
Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.