A federal appeals court decided Thursday that two California counties violated the Constitution’s freedom to keep and bear arms by closing gun and ammo stores in 2020 as non-essential enterprises amid the COVID-19 epidemic.
Gun stores were not excluded from larger closing orders intended at restricting the transmission of the coronavirus early in the epidemic, according to lower court judgments in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Both lower court verdicts were overturned by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Judge Lawrence VanDyke said that the 2nd Amendment “means nothing if the government may prevent all citizens from possessing any handgun or ammunition.” “However, it is exactly what happened in this case.”
Because gun purchases in California must be made in person, Ventura County’s 48-day shutdown of gun shops, ammo stores, and firing ranges “completely barred law-abiding residents in the County from enjoying their right to keep and bear weapons,” he said.
This, he pointed out, despite the fact that bike stores were among those permitted to remain open as necessary companies. In the Los Angeles County case, the panel used the same logic, however, the closure was only for 11 days.
According to Michael Jean, director of the National Rifle Association’s Office of Litigation Counsel, which sued in the Los Angeles County case, the ruling affirms that governments “cannot utilize a crisis to trample on people’s fundamental rights.” It also sued Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties in Northern California over their limitations, but the latter three were dropped from the case after their orders were rescinded.
According to the Firearms Policy Coalition, another gun owners’ rights group that sued, similar limits were enacted in ten other states: Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Three gun-rights organizations, as well as other people and companies, had petitioned the California Supreme Court to reverse the lower court verdicts.
In an email, Ventura County spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said the county “believes the issue was rightly determined at the District Court level and is dissatisfied with the three-judge panel’s ruling.” Officials are analyzing the judgment and “considering our options and next measures,” according to the statement.
The case’s listed plaintiffs, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Losing parties can ask the whole 9th Circuit to reconsider the three judges’ decision, or they can appeal the US Supreme Court. In recent years, the nation’s supreme court has been seen as increasingly friendly to gun owners.
The instances arose “when authoritarian regimes utilized COVID as a justification to violate Second Amendment rights,” according to Adam Kraut, vice president of programs at the Firearms Policy Coalition.
“The 9th Circuit rulings reinforce our assertions that the COVID gun store and shooting range closures violated Californians’ Second Amendment rights,” he stated.