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California

Court says counties must justify zoning that restricts gun stores

Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain
Zoning rules that restrict the location of gun stores might violate the 2nd Amendment, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court ruled Monday. Above, 9th Circuit Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, who wrote the opinion.
(Benjamin Reed)

A federal appeals court decided Monday that a zoning requirement restricting the location of gun stores may violate a constitutional right to bear arms.

A panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Alameda County, ruling 2-1 that the county must justify a ban that prevents new gun stores from locating within 500 feet of a residential neighborhood. 

If the zoning law amounts to total ban on new gun stores, it is likely to be unconstitutional, the majority suggested.

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“The right to purchase and to sell firearms is part and parcel of the historically recognized right to keep and to bear arms,” wrote Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, a Reagan appointee.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by businessmen who wanted to open a gun store in San Leandro, which borders the city of Oakland.  The county initially approved a permit for the store, but a group of residents challenged it and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors revoked the permit.

According to the county’s way of measuring, the store would have been less than 500 feet from a residential neighborhood, though across a freeway.

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Judge Barry G. Silverman dissented, arguing that a lower court properly dismissed the lawsuit. Silverman said there were already at least 10 gun stores in Alameda County.

“When you clear away all the smoke, what we’re dealing with here is a mundane zoning dispute dressed up as a 2nd Amendment challenge,” the Clinton appointee wrote.

maura.dolan@latimes.com

Twitter: @mauradolan

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