The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals remanded a lower court ruling that upheld an Alameda County, Cali. law that effectively banned all new gun stores. The county implemented a zoning code that made it impossible to open a new gun store in the area.
While not an explicit or outright gun store ban, the law made it illegal to open any new gun stores within 500 feet of any residentially-zoned district and more. Gun stores were forbidden from opening up within 500 feet of any “elementary, middle or high school; pre-school or day care center; other firearms sales business; or liquor stores or establishments in which liquor is served,” which along with the residential zoning restriction ruled out the bulk of the California county.
A would-be gun store owner thought he’d found a location that was more than 500 feet away from any of the sensitive locations by road or by foot and so the local zoning board green-lit the future location of Valley Guns and Ammo. Technically the store was just over 400 feet away from a residential location but because it was unreachable by land routes the zoning board granted John Teixeira a variance.
After discovering that a gun store was opening up nearby, the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association filed an appeal with the county. The county board of supervisors sustained the appeal and revoked the local zoning board variance, which forced Teixeira to take things to the courts.
In the lower court Teixeira didn’t fare well but in the Court of Appeals his case against Alameda County was largely justified, and the Ninth Circuit rejected the bulk of the lower court’s ruling. (The only part the appeals court agreed with is that the suit should not be judged on 14th Amendment grounds–it is purely a Second Amendment case.)
The appeals court justices, writing for the majority, were clear in their assertion. “Teixeira ultimately bases his Second Amendment challenge on a purported right to purchase firearms–that is, a right to acquire weapons for self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Judge Carlos Bea explained.
“Though Heller did not recognize explicitly a right to purchase or to sell weapons, the Court’s opinion was not intended to serve as ‘an exhaustive historical analysis…of the full scope of the Second Amendment. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to take a fresh look at the historical record to determine whether the right to keep and to bear arms, as understood at the time it was enshrined in the Constitution.”
In the ruling, the judges included historical writing and law from when the Second Amendment was drafted and even earlier, making it very clear that the right to keep and bear arms must include the right to purchase arms and ammunition.
The Court of Appeals also held that the state was not convincing in their argument that gun stores are a public safety issue. Teixeira argued that gun store employees and customers all must pass background checks and are demonstrably safe people, and the appeals court agreed.
Finally, the Court of Appeals rejected the lower court’s ruling that said that existing gun stores were enough to satisfy the local need for guns and shooting supplies. The judges wrote that no one would see this as anything short of a Constitutional right if the same standards were applied to other enumerated rights.
“Would a claim challenging an Alameda County ordinance that targeted bookstores be nothing more than ‘a mundane zoning dispute dressed up as a [First] Amendment challenge?'” wrote the court. “Such an ordinance, of course, would give us great pause. Our reaction ought to be no different when it comes to challenges invoking the Second Amendment.”
Like bookstores, newspapers, or houses of worship, there is no such thing as “enough” gun stores.