The Holy Grail of the gun control movement is a complete ban on the possession of firearms, but given the Supreme Court’s ruling in Heller v. D.C. back in 2008, that’s off the table (at least while the Democrats are unable to move forward with their plan to pack the Supreme Court). Gun control activists have been trying instead to impose bans on so-called assault weapons, “large capacity” magazines, “ghost guns,” anything else that they can think of, but up in Massachusetts a group of activists has been targeting gun stores, and not just firearms themselves.
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, we take a closer look at the latest developments in Newton, Massachusetts, the Boston suburb that’s been ground zero for a new fight over gun stores. The battle has expanded into several other suburbs as well, and the anti-gunners’ biggest fight hasn’t been with Second Amendment supporters (who are unfortunately a minority in what was once the cradle of liberty), but with themselves.
The more pragmatic hoplophobes have been successfully arguing against an outright ban on gun shops, pointing out that such a ban invites litigation and could easily be tossed out of court. Why explicitly ban gun stores when cities can implicitly accomplish the same goal by passing zoning laws and additional permitting requirements that amount to a ban? That’s what the city of Chicago has done, after previously being sued over a blanket prohibition on gun stores and ranges was struck down. It’s been more than a decade since Chicago’s handgun ban was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but in the eleven years since, no gun store or range has been able to successfully open for business inside the Chicago city limits, despite multiple lawsuits.
The anti-gun purists, however, argue that these types of restrictions don’t go far enough. These activists welcome a court challenge, believing that they can prevail on the merits and may inspire other cities to take a similar stand.
In Newton, the pragmatists are winning, at least for now. Earlier this week the Newton City Council overwhelmingly voted against an outright ban on firearms retailers; instead relegating them to a few out-of-the-way locations inside the city limits. Still, even after the vote the purists have vowed to continue their fight.
The proposed ban of gun shops through zoning was initially docketed by a group of 11 councilors, including Emily Norton of Ward 2 and Leonard Gentile of Ward 4. Councilors Norton, Gentile, and R. Lisle Baker of Ward 7 cast the dissenting votes Monday.
Defeat of that measure will likely not be the last word on the issue. Last month, Norton and Gentile docketed a separate ban proposal that calls for adding amendments to the city’s ordinances that would prohibit the sale or manufacture of firearms within the city.
During Monday’s City Council meeting, Gentile said the proposed gun store ban through the city ordinances was expected to be taken up in the fall.
Debate over a ban comes after the City Council in early June approved new local regulations that limit where firearms businesses could open, and requires them to receive a special permit from councilors to open. The rules apply to firearms dealers, gunsmiths, and gun ranges.
The Supreme Court has bypassed lawsuits over restrictive zoning laws in the past; letting a Ninth Circuit decision stand, for instance, that allowed Alameda County to put zoning restrictions in place that prevent any new gun stores from opening for business. That decision happened a few years ago, however, and the Court appears ready to take another look at 2A issues, beginning with a challenge to New York’s carry laws that the justices will hear in the fall. Newton’s actions could give the Court another opportunity to revisit the issue in the not-too-distant future, and if anti-gun activists are successful in exporting their campaign to other communities, gun owners and would-be gun store owners will have plenty of opportunities to bring a case that will hopefully pique the interest of a majority of the Court.