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Smackdown CA: Court panel says 2020 COVID closure of gun stores unconstitutional

A federal court panel says two counties in California violated the Second Amendment by shutting down gun stores for 48 days during the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

Buried on pages 32 and 33 of a 60-page court ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that Ventura and Los Angeles counties violated the Second Amendment when they ordered a shutdown of gun shops in Spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak are two passages likely to make anti-gunners cringe.

The 9th Circuit panel ruled unanimously in a pair of cases challenging the shutdowns that both counties’ actions were unconstitutional.

The cases are known as McDougall v. Ventura County and Martinez v. Villaneuva. The McDougall case involved the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), California Gun Rights Foundation (CGRF), Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and two private citizens. In the Martinez case, SAF CGRF, FPC were joined by the National Rifle Association.

Writing the opinion, Circuit Judge Lawrence VanDyke—a 2020 Donald Trump appointee, underscoring the argument that elections matter—observed, “People don’t plan to be robbed in their homes in the dead of night or to be assaulted while walking through city streets. It is in these unexpected and sudden moments of attack that the Second Amendments’ rights to keep and bear arms becomes most acute.”

A few lines later, VanDyke adds this additional comment: “The acute need for Second Amendment rights during temporary crises was well-understood by our Founders…Modern society agrees, as firearm and ammunition sales have soared during the recent pandemic. But if the government suspends these rights during times of crises, the Second Amendment itself becomes meaningless when it is needed most—especially to the victims of attacks.”

Judge VanDyke acknowledges the Ninth Circuit may re-hear the case en banc, meaning a full panel of judges on the liberal bench will be able to weigh in. Pro-Second Amendment rulings are invariably re-heard by an en banc panel.

Alan Gottlieb, SAF founder and executive vice president, said his organization is prepared to take this case clear to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The VanDyke opinion notes at least twice that officials in Ventura County never explained the rationale behind closing gun stores and ranges while allowing bicycle shops and hardware stores to remain open as “essential” businesses.

The shutdown continued for 48 days, which “therefore denied anyone who did not possess both a firearm and ammunition on March 19, 2020, from exercising their fundamental rights protected by the Second Amendment until at least May 7.”

This could be just the start of a lengthy court process.

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