Fun fact: Burbank, California is home to 14 different gun stores.
Not-so-fun fact: that number isn’t going to grow anytime soon, and if city leaders and anti-gun residents have their way, the number of firearm retailers will decline dramatically over the next few years.
After a small group of protesters rallied outside of City Hall last month to call for changes to the city’s zoning laws, the Burbank City Council responded on Wednesday by imposing a 45-day moratorium on new stores while officials craft new zoning laws that could result in existing stores being forced to relocate or shut down completely.
During the moratorium, city staff will research possible regulations, including:
— Limiting firearms businesses by suspending the issuance and new licenses and allowing the overall number to be reduced over time through attrition
— Establishing additional requirements for firearms retailers seeking license renewals, or imposing rules such as local inspections of inventory, transaction procedures and security
— Establishing buffer zones to prevent such businesses from locating near “sensitive” sites, such as schools
“We hear and understand the community’s concerns regarding firearms and firearm retailers in Burbank, which is why City Council advocates for measures that seek to keep our community safe while also protecting an individual’s right to lawfully bear arms under the Second Amendment,” Mayor Jess Talamantes said in a statement Tuesday. “By establishing this temporary moratorium, staff can further look into firearm-related measures to preserve the general welfare of our community.”
According to the Los Angeles Daily News, no Burbank official could point to any trouble or issues from any of the existing stores, but said that they were responding to some residents who are concerned about “the proximity of some stores to schools, parks and places of worship.”
My guess is that it’s going to be hard to zone for a firearms retailer without having the location be near some place that anti-gun residents view as a problem, and if that magic location is found it’s probably not going to be in a very retail-friendly location. That’s what we’ve seen in cities like Chicago, which has been repeatedly sued over its post-McDonald zoning laws designed to keep gun stores and ranges out of the city. At one point Chicago had limited potential gun ranges to just 2% of the land area in the city, much of it inaccessible to the public, before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the ordinance.
If Burbank doesn’t opt for outright bans on gun stores in many parts of the city, they could take another page out of Chicago’s playbook. After the Seventh Circuit struck down the city’s original ordinance, the city responded by adopting new rules that theoretically allow for ranges and gun stores to operate in business, commercial and industrial areas but only if they receive a special use permit. It’s been five years since the city adopted that change, and to date there are still zero gun stores or ranges operating inside the Chicago city limits.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has been even more amendable to bans on gun stores, ruling in 2017 that Alameda County, California’s ban on new gun stores located within 500 feet of schools, day care centers, liquor stores, bars, other gun stores, and residential districts was perfectly constitutional, even though it amounted to a blanket ban on new firearms retailers in the county. At the time, the Ninth Circuit opined that “the act of selling firearms is not part or parcel of the right to keep and bear arms”, despite the fact that it’s impossible to do either if you can’t acquire a firearm in the first place.
A lot has changed in the world of Second Amendment litigation over the past five years, however, and depending on what Burbank’s new rules look like when they’re unveiled in early September gun owners in California might have another opportunity to challenge these overly restrictive zoning ordinances designed to chill the exercise of a fundamental constitutional right.