By Tom Knighton
January 21, 2022
When the pandemic first hit American shores, things were less than ideal. While we’ve kind of sort of learned to live with COVID, the early days included lockdowns. People couldn’t go anywhere or do anything except for a select handful of places.
In California and many other places, part of that lockdown was shutting down gun stores as non-essential services. For people who value their gun rights, that was kind of a problem. After all, our rights are very essential.
While the lockdowns are over, the court cases spawning from that didn’t just go away, and it looks like California is on the losing end.
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.
Honestly, this is fairly sound reasoning.
If guns stores weren’t the only way to obtain firearms, gun stores being closed wouldn’t be nearly as big of a problem. After all, if you can buy a gun from your buddy without going through an FFL, you don’t necessarily need a gun store.
But California, in their infinite “wisdom,” decided folks shouldn’t be allowed to do that.
So, when COVID rolls around and counties shut down gun stores because “no one needs a gun beside the police,” you’ve now prevented people from exercising their constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms.
Frankly, we knew this would be found illegal from the start. And not, Judge Benetiz isn’t the one who wrote the decision.
While I expect there to be further judicial review of this case, possibly up to the Supreme Court, the truth is that the panel actually made the right ruling on this. Especially in light of things like universal background checks.
You cannot bar people from buying guns, especially not with the argument, “It’s for your own good.” That’s essentially what the lockdown of gun stores was about. They decided you couldn’t exercise your rights because they figured it was unsafe, in this case, because of COVID.