The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld an Alameda County law barring gun stores within 500 feet of residential properties in a blow to gun rights advocates.
The high court declined to take up the case of businessman John Teixeira and his partners who found the California county’s zoning ordinances made it impossible to find a commercial property where they could operate a gun store.
The challenge had been filed with the Supreme Court after the U.S. 9th Circuit ruled in October that local governments could regulate the sale of firearms so long as patrons could still buy them somewhere in the area. The ruling said the Second Amendment does not protect the ability to engage in gun sales.
The case was backed by a number of gun rights groups to include the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, the Calguns Foundation, and the Second Amendment Foundation, with attorneys Alan Gura and Don Kilmer at the helm. In the matter, the groups contended the zoning effectively put the entire county off-limits to new gun stores, threatening the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms by making them unavailable.
The original challenge dates back to 2012 after the plaintiffs attempted for two years to comply with the county’s requirements, but had difficulty finding a location at least 500-feet away from a residential area, day care center, school or other “sensitive areas.” While the men were initially granted a variance from the 500-foot rule to lease a location 446 feet away from a residential area, county officials reversed the decision after a local homeowners’ association objected, leading the entrepreneurs to seek redress with the courts.
While a District Court initially upheld the rule, a split three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit in 2016 found Alameda County’s regulations unconstitutional. The majority noted that county officials should provide evidence showing, for instance, that gun stores increase crime to justify such regulations. That decision, in turn, was vacated and the case was sent for retrial before the larger en banc panel last year who held there were no such constitutional protections on gun sales.
Gun control advocates who stood with the county and filed a number of supporting briefs arguing on behalf of the ban applauded the news from the court. “The Ninth Circuit agreed with our position that Alameda County’s modest zoning law provides a safe distance between new gun dealers and sensitive areas such as schools, and is a lawful exercise of the County’s authority to regulate the commercial sale of guns,” said Hannah Shearer, who handles litigation for the Giffords Law Center. “The Ninth Circuit’s ruling, and the Supreme Court’s decision to let it stand, is an important victory for local governments seeking to keep the sale and spread of guns away from kids and residential areas.”