An appeals court upholds a gun store ban, despite the 2nd Amendment

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has taken a swipe at 2nd Amendment absolutists by ruling that, however one interprets the Constitution’s guarantee of a right to “keep and bear arms,” it doesn’t mean that gun shops have an absolute right to locate themselves anywhere they wish.

The 9-2 ruling in Teixeira v. County of Alameda, handed down Tuesday by the San Francisco-based court, upheld an Alameda County ordinance that banned new gun shops within 500 feet of schools, day care centers, liquor stores or bars, other gun stores, and residential districts.

Teixeira amounts to an important narrowing of the rights ostensibly conferred by the 2nd Amendment. Judge Marsha S. Berzon, writing for the majority, made a clear distinction between the “people’s” right to keep and bear arms and the rights of gun sellers, which she found to be conditional.

The ruling may be heartening for “gun safety advocates who feared judicial aggrandizement of the right to bear arms could invalidate myriad laws governing firearm commerce,” as Mark Joseph Stern observes in Slate. The ruling seems almost predestined for review by the Supreme Court, where the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench may have intensified a majority’s hostility to gun laws of almost any kind. That said, the court has been reluctant to step back into the gun-rights fray since roiling the waters with a 2008 ruling.

The Alameda County case was brought by John Teixeira, who planned to open a gun shop in the unincorporated neighborhood of San Lorenzo in 2010. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors denied him a permit after finding that his chosen location fell within 500 feet of a residential zone. Backed by a coalition of gun rights groups, Teixeira sued to overturn the ordinance, arguing that the law was so restrictive that there were no locations left within Alameda’s unincorporated areas that would allow a gun store. A federal district court threw out his case but was overruled last year by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, which sent the case back down for further proceedings; the full circuit court then took up the case, and on Tuesday upheld the original district court’s original dismissal.

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