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University of Baltimore Journal of Land and Development

Authors

Trevor Shaw

Abstract

The 9th Circuit decided to overturn a local California county zoning ordinance that was infringing upon a citizen’s Second Amendment right to own and operate a gun store. The ordinance stated that any store that sold firearms or operated as a firing range needed to be 500 feet away from the front door of the shop to the front door of school zones, government buildings, residential areas, and other stores that sell firearms. The owners of Valley Guns & Ammo found a place located in Alameda County, just outside the radius and began working on acquiring the property and renovating it into their gun store and firing range. During this time period, the county came by and informed the owners that they could not operate their gun store at the building because their store would be located inside the disqualifying radius. The building that was to be used had only one door, and the owners had measured the distance from the front door to the nearest disqualifying property’s front door at 532 feet away. The court declined to address the factual issue of the county improperly measuring the distance, and instead determined the constitutionality of a zoning ordinance that regulates the Second Amendment.

The owners of the store appealed the zoning violation, claiming that they were outside the radius as described by the statute. The county measured from the exterior wall of the store to the nearest “residential property line rather from door to door,” putting the property 54 feet too close to the closest disqualifying property marker. Once the case reached the 9th Circuit, the court overturned the lower court’s decision, holding that the ordinance as read and interpreted by the lower court was a violation of the storeowner’s Second Amendment rights. The court recognized the importance of protecting one’s fundamental rights from an overbearing government ordinance. This ruling gained a great deal of criticism from the public and the fellow judges, especially in the dissent which claimed that this was not a Second Amendment claim, but merely a zoning issue made to look like a Second Amendment claim.

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