While state legislators are busy in Boston crafting and passing sweeping gun control bills, there’s another looming threat to the Second Amendment taking place at the local level. On today’s Bearing Arms Cam & Co Matt Harris, director of public policy at the Gun Owners Action League, joins the show to talk about what’s happening in the town of Sudbury, where local officials are hoping to impose a new rule that would prohibit gun stores from opening or operating inside Sudbury’s borders.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this in Massachusetts. In fact, for several years now communities around Boston have been crafting zoning laws designed to push gun stores off of Main Street and into industrial sections… or out of town completely. Earlier this year Sudbury officials brought a citizens petition that would have outlawed commercial sales, manufacturing, and assembling firearms and accessories, but as my colleague John Petrolino reported, the petition was voted down at the Sudbury Town Meeting back in May.
That should have been the end of the story, but as Harris told me, bad ideas are never permanently off the table in Massachusetts. Despite the nearly 2-1 opposition to the proposal, the Sudbury Democratic Town Committee is once again calling for a change to the town’s zoning laws that would ban any gun shops from opening in town.
The Sudbury Democratic Town Committee voted to back the zoning bylaw on Sept. 13 while citing the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the Second Amendment case Teixeira v. County of Alameda. John Texeira wanted to open a gun store in the California county, but ran into trouble due to a local law banning gun stores within 500 feet of residential zones, schools and daycare centers. The court held in a 2017 that the law wasn’t necessarily unconstitutional because there were plenty of gun stores around for would-be buyers.
Sudbury Democrats argue that towns like Framingham, Natick and Hudson all provide plenty of outlets to buy or shoot guns.
“The Sudbury Democratic Town Committee believes that the town has and should exercise its right to ban gun shops and firearm facilities altogether in town. Under the language of Teixeira, such an action would not “meaningfully constrain” the rights of gun buyers or gun owners since there are gun shops in at least four adjacent cities and towns and there is a firing range in neighboring Maynard,” the committee said in a statement this week.
And what happens if Framingham, Natick, and Hudson decided to ban gun stores as well? How far does one have to travel to acquire a firearm before their ability to do so becomes “meaningfully constrained”?
While the Democrats in Sudbury are pointing to a 2017 court decision issued 3,000 miles away, they’re ignoring a more recent decision far closer to home that indicates an outright ban on gun stores wouldn’t be upheld by the federal courts in Massachusetts. During the early days of the COVID pandemic in 2020, then-governor Charlie Baker refused to declare gun stores as essential businesses, which meant they were forced to shut down at a time when millions of Americans were choosing to exercise their Second Amendment rights for the first time in their lives. Second Amendment groups, including the Firearms Policy Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation, and Commonwealth 2A sued alongside several gun store owners, and U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock granted an injunction against the governor’s order as it applied to firearm retailers. In his decision, Woodlock declared that “We don’t surrender our constitutional rights,” even in a state of emergency. If an order to shutter all gun shops was deemed unconstitutional, then why would an order barring any gun shop from opening be any more acceptable?
Harris tells Bearing Arms if Sudbury does move forward with a gun shop ban, GOAL is ready to sue over the zoning changes. We’ll be keeping a close eye on any upcoming votes, but check out the entire conversation with Harris in the video window below to learn more about these local threats to our right to keep and bear arms.