Virus Outbreak California gun stores
An employee answers questions at the entrance to a gun shop Tuesday, March 24, 2020, in Culver City, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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By Don Thompson, AP

Two California counties violated the Constitution’s right to keep and bear arms when they shut down gun and ammunition stores in 2020 as nonessential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

Officials in Los Angeles and Ventura counties had separately won lower court decisions saying gun stores were not exempt from broader shutdown orders aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus early in the pandemic.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected both lower court rulings.

The Second Amendment “means nothing if the government can prohibit all persons from acquiring any firearm or ammunition,” Judge Lawrence VanDyke wrote. “But that’s what happened in this case.”

Because buyers can obtain guns only by personally going to gun stores in California, Ventura County’s 48-day closure of gun shops, ammunition shops and firing ranges “wholly prevented law-abiding citizens in the County from realizing their right to keep and bear arms,” he wrote.

This, he noted, while bike shops were among those allowed to remain open as essential businesses. The panel adopted the same reasoning in the Los Angeles County case, though the closure there was for 11 days.

The decision holds that governments “cannot use a crisis to trample on the Constitutional rights of citizens,” said Michael Jean, director of the National Rifle Association’s Office of Litigation Counsel that sued in the Los Angeles County case. It also sued Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties over their restrictions in Northern California, but the last three were dismissed from the lawsuit when they repealed their orders.

Similar restrictions were imposed in 10 other states, according to the Firearms Policy Coalition, another gun owners’ rights groups that sued: Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Virginia.

Three gun-owner rights groups and several individuals and businesses had sought to overturn the lower court rulings in California.

Ventura County “believes the case was correctly decided at the District Court level and is disappointed with the three-judge panel’s decision,” county spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said in an email. Officials are reviewing the decision and “evaluating our options and next steps.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, named plaintiffs in the case, did not immediately comment.

Losing parties can generally ask the full 9th Circuit to review the ruling by the three judges, or petition the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s high court has been deemed more sympathetic to gun owners in recent years.

Firearms Policy Coalition vice president of programs Adam Kraut said in a statement that the cases resulted “when authoritarian governments used COVID as an excuse to attack Second Amendment rights.”

The 9th Circuit opinions “confirm our claims that the COVID closures of gun stores and firing ranges violated the Second Amendment rights of Californians,” he said.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting. Being in the ninth circuit I would’ve expected them to rule that not only was it constitutional to shut all the gun stores down but it would be constitutional to shut all gun stores down permanently and ban all gun sales in the state.

    Eh, that will come if it goes en banc.

    • “Eh, that will come if it goes en banc.”

      Why do any circuit courts have less than en banc judicial panels? Smaller panels are merely lawyer subsidies. And an admission that one gets all the justice one can afford.

      • An Appeal to the circuit court of appeals is mandatory; en banc review is discretionary and limited. It just so happens that in California the ninth always seems to grant en bank review when a pro-gun decision comes down from the three judge panel. To put it another way, most three judge panel decisions are not further challenged.

        • “…”most three judge panel decisions are not further challenged.”

          Due to lack of money for further appeal?

      • Hallmark review is like Supreme Court review. You file a petition and almost all of them are denied. So it really isn’t a money issue as much as the probability of no review being granted at all. By the same token, even though there are a lot of them, appeals to the Supreme Court are relatively few.

        • “You file a petition and almost all of them are denied. So it really isn’t a money issue…”

          Thanx for that.

    • Shawn,

      Eh, that will come if it goes en banc.

      That will come WHEN it goes en banc. There, fixed that for you.

      • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

        Could it be that just maybe they see the writing on the wall concerning the upcoming ruling in the NY Pistol carry case?

        Hell no, like brain-damaged mentally-ill demented trolls have to troll, Leftist Scum have to infringe… 🙁

  2. Tje two counties still won They mnaged to get al things firearm shut down for the period inquestion. And it took nearly two years to get it sorted out The counties should be forced to pay the legalexpenses of the prevaing parties. AND slapped with a comtempt fine.

    • Tionico,

      How about the proper outcome and remedy to radically reduce the frequency of all such future actions: the U.S. Justice Department prosecutes the offending parties for their criminal acts under Title 18 U.S. Code Section 241-242 Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law.

      Sadly, we all know that will never happen.

      • Yep.
        The counties will just do it again if they feel like it.
        Without a MAJOR financial penalty the jackboots will just be snickering as they close you down again on the next bogus rationale.

  3. This reply from the Ventura County “dip sh!TS in charge”, really takes the cake…in other words, “we believe that it’s perfectly reasonable to trample on gun/self defense/RTKBA rights because ‘reasons’….

    “Ventura County “believes the case was correctly decided at the District Court level and is disappointed with the three-judge panel’s decision,” county spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said in an email. Officials are reviewing the decision and “evaluating our options and next steps.”

    Unfortunately for you, Ventura County, the HOGHER Court decided to actually READ The Constitution & interpret it correctly.

  4. Is anything going to prevent them from doing the same thing at some opportune moment in the future? If there are no personal consequences for those responsible, why wouldn’t they do it again?

  5. I’m real glad a judge can make a ruling on a constitutional right. If it wasn’t for judges why we just wouldn’t have any rights at all.
    I must say they judge Supremely.
    .

    • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

      Subtle sarcasm is the best sarcasm.

      *snicker* 😉

  6. If, after all this is done (appeals), and the court still says its unconstitutional – how are the gun stores going to compensated for the revenue they lost and the blatant unconstitutional and unlawful infringement of their 2A rights and how are citizens going to be compensated for the blatant unconstitutional and unlawful infringement of their 2A rights?

    These counties should be held accountable to the people, to adequately compensate for the losses suffered.

    The loss of the exercise of a constitutional right, through no fault of your own but by blatant unjustified government infringement is akin to a horrible crime. Victims of this crime should be compensated automatically. But… we have this sport of a screwed up legal system that needs to be played to win or lose.

    • The County made loads of money off of taxes in the pot stores. Stimulus checks helped those profits. Pass on the tax to compensate the Gun stores.

    • I fully agree these business owners should properly compensated. Such compensation should include jail sentences for those officials that voted to violate their Constitutional rights and prevent these enterprises from producing taxable income.

  7. Gosh, some outsider must have been President and appointed Cato Institute approved legal scholars to the Ninth Circuit, but then people must have said he didn’t really support the Second Amendment because bumpystocks and stood by while a zombie was elected to replace him.

    • The ban on bumpstocks IS unconstitutional as is the Hughes Act that all but bans private ownership of full autos. This same gun-ignorant New Yorker was supposed to break that circus down in to smaller circuits too but it never happened. It’s simple enough that if you don’t like something you don’t buy it.

      • Battered voter syndrome… “he knocked out another one of my teeth, and those never seem to grow back, but he bought me a shake, so its all good….he’s still pro-eating… great guy… its all of you that ruined our relationship by intervening”

      • Might be busy doing some irl trolling at shot show and too busy to post. Hopefully just something silly but is mildly concerning when it goes silent given it’s mentality……… minor has been rather quiet lately as well. Just the throwaway trolls and jsled that I recall seeing lately.

  8. So what is the punishment for the officials who used a supposed crisis to trample on the rights of their citizens? I’d propose public flogging but I won’t get my hopes up.

      • Say what you will but ILLannoy didn’t close gunshops. They just tax & harass the chit out of them. Fat boy wants the dough. Commiefornia is absolutely a lost cause but good luck…

      • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

        “Holding out for tar and feathering by a torch and pitchfork type mob.”

        Pliers and a blowtorch from some ‘hard, pipe-hitters’ is more appropriate…

  9. “The Second Amendment “means nothing if the government can prohibit all persons from acquiring any firearm or ammunition,” Judge Lawrence VanDyke wrote.”

    Interesting coming from a judge. Yet California regularly prohibits 30 round magazines.

    “Because buyers can obtain guns only by personally going to gun stores in California…”

    Lol, wow…
    So no one steals guns anymore?

  10. Standard 9th Circuit delaying tactic. Assign all gun rights cases to a panel of their 3 most conservative judges. Panel rules infringing law is unconstutional. Infringing entity appeals for en banc ruling. Full court take a couple of year to rule that the infringing law is perfectly okay.

    If the 9th Circuit plays their cards right, the chief justice can keep the infringing law away from the SCOUTS for 8 or 9 years.

  11. Agreed, this was an infringement on multiple levels. Good to see the court say so. Small victory!

  12. This was a ruling by a three judge panel. It WILL be appealed and heard ‘en banc’ where the entire court which has a majority of communists infesting it WILL overturn this ruling. Just a matter of time.

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