The city of Huntington Beach, California, is suing a resident for starting a petition to get an assault weapons ban on the November ballot. While there appeared to be no chance that the resident's initiative would get 12,000 signatures by the June 2 deadline, the city still decided to sue. (Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images)
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A California man sent out petitions for an assault weapons ban in his community, and now his city is suing him, claiming his actions are unconstitutional, the Orange County Register reported.
What's the story?
After the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, Huntington Beach, California, resident Daniel Horgan decided to gauge his community's interest in banning assault weapons.
So he wrote a petition to get the Automatic Weapons Initiative on the November ballot, which would require 12,000 signatures. After two mailings of about 2,000 petitions each, he received only around 650 responses — and some of those were unfavorable.
Horgan's initiative calls for "all semi-automatic and automatic guns and rifles to be turned into the City of Huntington Beach by Jan. 1, 2019."
There appeared to be no chance that Horgan's initiative would get 12,000 signatures by the June 2 deadline. Still, the city decided to sue him, calling his initiative "unconstitutional, invalid and not entitled to placement on the ballot."
Is the lawsuit justified?
City attorney Michael Gates said the initiative risked wasting city time and resources, in addition to opposing legal gun rights.
"His initiative squarely hits the Second Amendment between the eyes and puts the city in opposition to state and federal law," Gates told the Register.
"I've heard comments that filing the lawsuit was not necessary," Gates said. "But I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and I believed this was the best way to fulfill that obligation."
Still, Horgan's attorney said it is an even bigger waste of resources for a city to sue a resident over a proposal with little-to-no chance of ever making it to the ballot.
"What kind of message does this lawsuit send to any citizen of Huntington Beach who wants to start a petition?" attorney Jerold Friedman asked. "It is extremely authoritarian, and it is a waste of city resources."
Several law professors told the Register that the lawsuit was an attack on the First Amendment.
"What is most offensive to the Constitution is not the proposed initiative, but Huntington Beach seeking by litigation to deny the essence of democracy," Pepperdine University law professor Douglas Kmiec said.
The lawsuit asks the court to "grant city costs, including out-of-pocket-expenses and attorneys' fees," and that could cost Horgan tens of thousands of dollars.
Horgan is scheduled to appear in court for the lawsuit May 24.
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