California city doubles down on gun store ban

California city doubles down on gun store ban
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Despite warnings that their policy invites a lawsuit and criticism from dozens of residents, the city council in Redwood City, California has doubled down on its recently enacted moratorium on gun stores operating inside the city limits. During the city council’s Monday night meeting, members unanimously approved extending the original 45-day moratorium put in place in October for another 10 1/2 months.

The moratorium was rushed into effect after two separate business applied for the necessary permits to open up a federally licensed firearms retail establishment in the city; apparently the first time anyone had ever tried to do so. A campaign was quickly mounted by anti-gun residents to pass an emergency zoning ordinance, though on Monday night the mayor laughably claimed that the gun store ban isn’t about sending an anti-Second Amendment message.

City leaders say it’s a land use issue.

“Redwood City, like most cities, regulates everything from where you can locate a multi-family home to where you can get a massage to where you can buy cannabis and so we think firearms and ammunition would be no different,” said Mayor Giselle Hale.

Well, you actually can buy cannabis in Redwood City, unlike a firearm. The issue isn’t whether or not the city can have zoning laws regulating where gun shops can operate, but whether those laws can simply forbid gun stores from opening altogether.

The controversy began when an application came in to open a gun shop at Roosevelt Plaza. It’s a plaza near schools, in a city that currently has no gun shops. But neither of those should play any role in this situation, according to the manager of Roosevelt Plaza.

“Local government is meddling in issues it shouldn’t be meddling in and trying to use zoning and planning laws against things they don’t like,” said plaza manager Maria Rutenburg. “They spend their time moralizing us rather than taking care of what city halls usually care for: potholes, and other things.”

Rutenberg said there are numerous state and federal laws that address who can enter a gun store and who can buy a gun, etcetera.

Here’s the thing about committed gun control activists: it doesn’t matter what or how many state and federal laws are on the books. As long as law-abiding Americans can still legally purchase a firearm, there’s always room for another gun control law on their prohibitionist plate. So what if every gun purchase in California must go through a background check and a 10-day waiting period? For the city council members, the issue is the fact that they can be sold at all.

For Second Amendment advocates, however, the issue is depriving residents of their ability to acquire a firearm, at least without driving miles out of their way on two separate occasions in order to do so. In fact, you could argue that the biggest practical effect of the city’s gun store ban will be keeping the city’s carbon footprint artificially high by not allowing residents a local place to shop for firearms, ammunition, and accessories.

Will Redwood City’s moratorium on gun stores be challenged in court? It’s looking like a distinct possibility.

One group keeping a close eye on these developments is Second Amendment Federation-they have taken legal action against municipalities nationwide in related cases, and they’re threatening legal action in this case as well.

But Hale says the city is on strong legal grounds if a lawsuit questions the need for an extension of this emergency ordinance.

“Redwood City takes the health and safety of his children very seriously, and the National Institutes of Health has said that gun violence is the leading cause of death among children,” said Hale.

Wait a second… didn’t the mayor say this was just a land use thing, and that the gun store ban wasn’t about guns themselves or the Second Amendment? Sounds like that isn’t the case after all… much like the mayor’s statistic, which is only true if you include 19-year olds as children. Otherwise, as the CDC figures highlight, the leading cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 14 are accidents and unintentional injuries.

But if the mayor wants to try to justify the city’s gun store ban on safety, then let’s crunch some numbers. There were about 40,000 gun-related deaths in the United States last year, and about 2/3rds of those were suicides. If that statistic alone is enough to justify banning gun stores, why aren’t the similar numbers of traffic fatalities leading to a ban on car dealers in the city? For that matter, what about the 140,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States? There are least six liquor stores operating not far from the proposed location of the gun store in Roosevelt Plaza, but I guess underage drinking isn’t a concern in Redwood City? It should be. After all, the CDC reports that an estimated 3,900 juveniles die from excessive alcohol use every year; a number that’s twice as high as the 1,777 juvenile homicide victims (gun and non-gun related) reported by the Department of Justice in 2020.

This isn’t about protecting kids. It’s about punishing adults who want to exercise their Second Amendment rights by making it as hard as possible to do so, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll soon see litigation filed in federal court. Mayor Hale may believe the ban is on solid legal footing, but I suspect the courts will find the city’s prohibition doesn’t come close to respecting the text, history, and tradition of the right to keep and bear arms.