SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA sues California over interstate commerce

By Jami Jones, senior editor | 7/28/2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 – The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, along with the NRA and The Calguns Foundation, filed a lawsuit today against the state of California seeking to repeal a law they say violates a federal protection of interstate commerce.

The suit alleging illegal regulation of interstate commerce was filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of California Sacramento Division by OOIDA; OOIDA Members Erik Royce and Brandon Elias, both of California; Folsom Shooting Club Inc.; The Calguns Foundation Inc.; and the National Rifle Association Inc.

The California Legislature passed a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, which regulates the delivery of handgun ammunition starting in early 2011.

The law states that the “delivery or transfer of ownership of handgun ammunition may only occur in face-to-face transactions with the deliverer or transferor being provided bona fide evidence of identity from the purchaser or other transferee.”

The law presents the trucking industry with a myriad of problems, including dictating potential routes and service of the shipment – something OOIDA claims is a clear violation of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994.

The act contains a provision that clearly prohibits states from passing laws that would infringe on various aspects of interstate commerce.

“… a state ... may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service” of any motor carrier, or intermodal air, intermodal ground carrier with respect to the transportation of property.

Congress enacted the law because “regulation of interstate transportation of property by the states had imposed an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce; [and] impeded the free flow of trade, traffic, and transportation of interstate commerce.”

The lawsuit outlines many of the systems and provisions that would have to be modified in order to comply with the California law.

The lawsuit contends that in order to comply with the California law, carriers have to, among other things, devise and implement systems and procedures to perform tasks such as the following:

  • Determine whether the package is California bound;
  • Determine what calibers of ammunition are deemed handgun ammunitionunder California law;
  • Implement policies and procedures requiring all California-bound packages containing handgun ammunition to be identified as containing handgun ammunition;
  • Implement and act on policies and procedures to determine whether the recipient of packages containing handgun ammunitionis an exempted person;
  • Perform an identification check, when required for such packages; and
  • Obtain a signature from the addressee of such packages.

Federal labeling requirements would hinder motor carriers and drivers from even knowing what is being shipped, according to the suit. Ammunition only has to be labeled as “ORM-D,” which stands for other regulated material-domestic – the same marking required for things like aerosol cans, automotive batteries, perfumes, lighters, beer and drain openers.

The labeling requirement alone could have a motor carrier inadvertently violating California’s law when a driver unknowingly delivers a package of handgun ammunition.

The lawsuit claims that in order to comply with California’s law, every package would have to be inspected to determine whether it is an ammunition product. Then, each potential delivery must be researched to determine the legal standing of the addressee. Carriers must create procedures for packages that cannot lawfully be delivered to the addressee or that the addressees are not available to sign for.

Such complications could result in many trucking companies simply refusing to deliver handgun ammunition to California, taking a significant toll on the motor carriers’ routes, rates and/or services.

OOIDA and the other plaintiffs are asking the court to prevent California officials from enforcing the law as well as attorney’s fees and any relief consistent with the injunction.

“This isn’t about firearms or ammunition,” said OOIDA President and CEO Jim Johnston.

“Congress made an important decision to keep motor carriers free from a patchwork of burdensome regulation as we move America’s goods to market. We cannot allow California to subject our members to criminal liability where the state has no right to meddle.”

To read the case, click here.

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