City leaders huddle behind closed doors as 2A group hints at lawsuit over gun store ban

City leaders huddle behind closed doors as 2A group hints at lawsuit over gun store ban
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

If you have the right to keep and bear arms, it stands to reason that you must have the right to acquire them as well. That would make things like a complete and total ban on gun stores a bit problematic from a constitutional standpoint, which is why the Second Amendment Foundation is promising to slap Redwood City, California with a lawsuit if it doesn’t remove a recently approved moratorium on gun shops inside the city limits.

The moratorium, which technically lasts for 45 days but can be re-authorized by the city council for up to two years, was approved last month as a way to prevent two proposed gun shops from opening for business, and quickly drew the attention of the Second Amendment Foundation’s new executive director Adam Kraut.

“Should Redwood City continue to deprive its residents of the ability to acquire arms and ammunition through an indeterminate moratorium on firearms and ammunition retailers from opening a business, SAF will examine all legal remedies available to it, its members, and those who may be affected by the City’s flagrant disregard of its citizens’ constitutional rights,” Executive Director Adam Kraut wrote in the letter dated Oct. 28.

“The city regulates where you can buy retail cannabis, where you can get gas for your car, where you can get a massage and even where you can build a home,” Mayor Giselle Hale said. “Why not explore where you can purchase a firearm?”

While Kraut acknowledged in the letter that zoning requirements around gun retail are permitted under rulings from the Ninth Circuit’s Court of Appeals, which includes Northern California, he wrote that “an outright bar is constitutionally impermissible.”

“It would be Redwood City’s policy of preemptively outlawing a firearm dealer within its jurisdiction, when none exists now, that makes the moratorium vulnerable to a facial challenge,” he said.

“Simply put, the right to keep and bear arms is meaningless without the right to acquire arms and ammunition,” he added.

Kraut is right, but he’s also correct in noting that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld some very restrictive zoning ordinances in the past, including Alameda County, California’s ban that was written in such a way that it prevents any new shops from opening in the county. Alameda County does have several existing gun stores, however, so even their draconian ordinances didn’t amount to the type of blanket ban that Redwood City is hoping to impose.

Kraut’s letter to the city council was apparently the subject of a lot of discussion during Monday night’s meeting, but the conversation between council members took place behind closed doors and out of view of the public. City attorney Veronica Ramirez requested the closed session to discuss the “significant exposure to litigation” posed by their new ordinance, but it’s unclear whether the council is prepared to back off the ban or modify it any way.

Interestingly, Ramirez voiced her support for the ordinance before it was voted on last month, and if she raised the specter of legal action before the city council approved the gun store ban the local media didn’t take note of it.

During a staff presentation, City Attorney Veronica Ramirez made a case for the ordinance, which she said would allow the city to consider and tailor future gun retail regulations “to protect public health and safety.” To pass the ordinance, the city council had to find “that there is a current and immediate threat to public health, safety or welfare” posed by the gun retailer, according to the staff report.

The council vote followed nearly an hour of public comment, during which 25 residents shared strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Roughly half of the speakers were in support of the ordinance, citing concerns about gun safety and insufficient regulations.

According to City Manager Melissa Stevenson Diaz, the city has already received dozens of messages in support of the ordinance. More than 1,500 parents and other community members also signed a letter opposing gun retail in Redwood City, she added.

Others, like Ari Goldberg, urged the council to vote no on the ordinance, citing the Constitution’s Second Amendment, which gives people the right to bear arms.

“This resolution would be an infringement on that right,” Goldberg said.

Redwood City resident Cheryl Wick said that having a firearm shop in the city was “absolutely necessary.”

Citing “a lot of anti-Asian crime happening in the Bay Area,” she said that she felt her only defense as an older Asian resident was a gun. “We have no intent of doing any harm to anybody but to protect ourselves.”

How on earth is the presence of a gun store “an immediate threat to public health, safety, or welfare”? Remember, this is California we’re talking about, so every gun buyer at a hypothetical gun store in Redwood City is going to have to go through a background check and a ten-day waiting period that’s ostensibly designed to prevent prohibited persons from getting their hands on a gun. Even those draconian policies aren’t enough to satisfy the prohibitionists, who won’t be satisfied unless gun shops are completely banned within the city limits.

Is it just the fact that guns are sold there, and guns can be used to harm people? If that’s the argument there are plenty of liquor stores operating in Redwood City despite the fact that alcohol is responsible for an estimated 140,000 deaths each and every year; almost three times the number of gun-related homicides, suicides, and accidental fatalities. For some strange reason there’s no push to get the demon rum out of Redwood City, however, just guns.

Will the threat of a lawsuit force Redwood City officials to back off their gun store ban, or are they prepared to defend it in court? We probably won’t have to wait too long to find out the answer, and it’s good to see that SAF is prepared to sue over the city’s ill-conceived, illogical, and (likely) unconstitutional restrictions.