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Court rebukes California counties for shutting down gun stores during COVID

Bob Unruh

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Actions violated the Constitution's 2nd Amendment

A federal appeals court has rebuked two counties in California for ordering gun and ammunition outlets to close down during COVID-19.

The officials ruled that the stores were "nonessential."

But now a decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has condemned that action.

Broadcaster KCRA explained the ruling from a three-judge panel found that officials in Los Angeles and Ventura counties violated the U.S. Constitution in their closure orders.

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The court said the Constitution's right to keep and bear arms was infringed by the government actions.

The report explained the 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…"

Both of those decisions were overturned.

Judges Lawrence VanDyke explained that the Second Amendment "means nothing if the government can prohibit all persons from acquiring any firearm or ammunition."

"That's what happened in this case," he said.

The report noted that buyers can obtain guns in California "only" by personally going to gun stores, so the closures "wholly prevented law-abiding citizens in the county from realizing their right to keep and bear arms."

Officials in a many states imposed similar closure mandates, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Georgia, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Virginia, according to the Firearms Policy Coalition.

Ventura County spokeswoman Ashley Bautista said officials were "evaluating" their options since they still believe their closure order was correct.

The Hill reported VanDyke added, "The orders therefore wholly prevented law-abiding citizens in the County from realizing their right to keep and bear arms, both by prohibiting access to acquiring any firearm and ammunition, and barring practice at firing ranges with any firearms already owned. These blanket prohibitions on access and practice clearly burden conduct protected by the Second Amendment and fail under both strict and intermediate scrutiny."

The Washington Examiner noted Michael Jean, director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, called it an important decision.

"It ensures that California, or any state, cannot use a crisis to trample on the Constitutional rights of citizens," Jean said.

The decision quoted Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch, who has said, "Even in times of crisis — perhaps especially in times of crisis — we have a duty to hold governments to the Constitution."

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