While many were still learning what COVID was, responsible California gun owners were unceremoniously stripped of their rights. For this reason, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California saw a case on the matter. The court rejected claims that Ventura and L.A. County’s coronavirus orders to close gun stores, ammo shops, and gun ranges violated the Second Amendment. However, a recent ruling from the 9th Circuit federal appeals court finds the COVID gun store closures unconstitutional.
9th Circuit Court Finds COVID Gun Store Closures to be Unconstitutional
In March of 2020 the counties of Ventura and Los Angeles imposed a series of stay-at-home orders and restrictions. The 48-day orders involved all non-essential businesses, including gun stores, ammunition shops, and firing ranges. As a result, gun-rights advocacy groups, like the Second Amendment Foundation sued, arguing that the orders were unconstitutional.
However, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California declined to block the bans. For this reason, the groups escalated their case to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the prohibitions ended, the Appellate court said the cases were not moot, because the plaintiffs were seeking nominal damages.
In the case of McDougall v. County of Ventura, the 9th Circuit Court makes it clear that this is a Second Amendment issue.
In the ruling Judge VanDyke states, “’[T]he right of the people to keep and bear Arms,’ U.S. Const. amend. II, means nothing if the government can prohibit all persons from acquiring any firearm or ammunition. But that’s what happened in this case.”
Furthermore, the ruling questions permitting other businesses to stay open while gun stores were not:
“The panel held that the Orders’ burden on the core of the Second Amendment warranted strict scrutiny—which the Orders failed to satisfy because they were not the least restrictive means to further Appellees’ interest, especially when compared to businesses that had no bearing on fundamental rights, yet nevertheless were allowed to remain open.”
The ruling also scrutinizes the logic used to deem gun stores as dangerous while other businesses were essential:
“The panel held that the Orders also failed intermediate scrutiny given that the County failed to provide any evidence or explanation suggesting that gun shops, ammunition shops, and firing ranges posed a greater risk of spreading COVID19 than other businesses and activities deemed ‘essential.’”
Chalk One Up for the Constitution
In his concurring statement, Judge Kleinfeld reminds everyone that the constitution cannot be easily wiped away. Likewise, he makes it clear that there were not sufficient records to justify such actions.
“The County provided no evidence and no justification for why bicycles could be purchased and delivered, for example, but firearms could not even be picked up at the storefront, or for why such outdoor activities as walking, bicycling, and golfing were allowed, but acquiring and maintaining proficiency at outdoor shooting ranges was not. The County has simply neglected to make a record that could justify its actions. Neither pandemic nor even war wipes away the Constitution,” stated Judge Kleinfeld
Although there is no reversing the damage done, hopefully, this will set a precedent moving forward. Ideally, the worst is behind us, and this will not be an issue in the future. But it is good to know that this ruling is on the books, in the event there are other attempts like this in the interest of “public safety.”