Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Second Amendment Rights Expanded

An unlikely source just broadened important Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, known for its liberal decisions, rendered a welcome surprise by establishing a constitutional right to buy and sell firearms. The Court held that the First Amendment places limits on zoning restrictions if they interfere with the sale of firearms by gun businesses.

Three men started a business to sell guns and ammunition in Alameda County, California. The zoning law in that County, however, prohibited a gun retail store from opening within 500 feet of any residentially zoned school, day care center, other gun store, a liquor store or any other establishment, such as restaurants, in which liquor is served.

After much research, the entrepreneurs found a parcel of land for starting their business, and initially the zoning board approved their application. But then neighbors objected, and appealed the decision to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, which then voted to revoke the permit for the gun store. Evidence suggested that there were not any other parcels of land that satisfied the stringent zoning requirements against gun stores. The zoning ordinance did not appear to be reasonably related to any genuine public safety issue.

The entrepreneurs sued in federal court, and their lawsuit wound its way on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. A 2-1 panel of that Court held the Second Amendment provides protection against unreasonable zoning regulations that block the opening of gun shops, but a county may have some regulations if they have a significant justification for interfering with businesses that buy and sell guns. “Our forefathers recognized that the prohibition of commerce in firearms worked to undermine the right to keep and to bear arms,” the Court ruled. The Court ruled that gun store owners can use the Second Amendment to challenge unreasonable zoning regulations.

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