SCOTUS: California county can regulate gun stores out of existence

This actually happened on Monday evening but we didn’t get around to tagging it until today. SCOTUS had been petitioned to review the case of Teixeira vs. Alameda County, a California suit brought by prospective gun shop owners who were blocked from setting up their new store by a county ordinance. Challenging the state law (which banned the establishment of new gun shops in unincorporated areas within a certain distance of residences, schools or daycare facilities), the plaintiffs had a seesaw battle in the lower courts, finally having to appeal it all the way to the top after losing out in the 9th Circuit.

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, on Monday evening the Supreme Court announced without further comment or dissent that they would not be accepting the case and would allow the 9th Circuit ruling to stand. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a challenge by would-be gun dealers and a firearms organization to an Alameda County ordinance that bans new gun stores in unincorporated areas within 500 feet of a residential neighborhood, school or day care center.

The justices left intact a federal appeals court ruling that said the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects only the right to keep and bear arms, not the right to sell them. Lawyers for the county said similar buffer-zone ordinances are in effect in 17 other cities and counties in California, including San Francisco, Oakland and Contra Costa County.

The 1998 Alameda County ordinance was challenged by three businessmen who wanted to open a gun shop in an unincorporated area near San Leandro, 446 feet away from the nearest home on the other side of Interstate 880.

As much as it may surprise you to read it here and as much as it pains me to say it, I think the Supremes may have gotten this one right. It’s true that the Second Amendment makes no mention of the right to sell arms, simply to keep and bear them. Granted, if the state can be shown to be making it impossible (or at least presenting a significant obstacle) for people to acquire firearms then you might have a case to argue. But in this instance, there were already ten gun shops in the county and one of them was in operation literally 600 feet from the proposed location of the new shop.

Rather than fighting this battle as a Second Amendment case, perhaps the plaintiffs could have made an argument based on suppression of trade or something along those lines But even then we’ve seen the courts be fairly generous toward state and local governments when it comes to zoning issues.

None of that detracts from the obvious intent of the law, which was precisely crafted to thwart the sale of guns since they can’t overturn the Second Amendment entirely. One of the anti-gun group spokespeople was quoted as calling the ruling, “an important victory for local governments seeking to keep the sale and spread of guns away from kids and residential areas.” This is, of course, nonsense. Stopping a new gun shop from opening up within walking distance of an existing one does nothing of the kind. And even if there wasn’t a gun shop within twenty miles, anyone with enough money to purchase a decent firearm can probably afford a car or at least a cab ride to go buy one elsewhere and bring it back home.

Still, the anti-gun crowd will be able to chalk this one up as yet another backdoor method of harassing gun shop owners and inflicting additional damage to the industry. And that was obviously their goal all along.

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