A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that a 48-day COVID-19-related shutdown of gun stores and shooting ranges in two California counties in the spring of 2020 violated the Second Amendment.
The cases are known as McDougall v. Ventura County and Martinez v. Villaneuva. In the McDougall case, SAF was joined by the California Gun Rights Foundation (CGRF), Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and two private citizens. In the Martinez case, SAF was joined by CGRF, FPC and the National Rifle Association.
Writing for the court, Judge Lawrence VanDyke, a Donald Trump appointee, observed, “from March 20 to May 7, 2020—a total of 48 days—the Orders mandated the closure of gun shops, ammunition shops, and firing ranges throughout the County to the general public, including Appellants. The closure prohibited County residents from leaving their homes to acquire any firearms or ammunition and maintain proficiency in the use of firearms at firing ranges…The County never explained its rationale behind the designations of businesses and activities deemed ‘Essential.’ The Orders therefore denied anyone who did not possess both a firearm and ammunition on March 19, 2020, from exercising their fundamental rights protected by the Second Amendment until at least May 7.”
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb stated, “Officials in both counties offered no explanation or justification for shutting down gun stores and shooting ranges, while allowing hardware stores or bicycle shops to remain open. Neither hardware or bicycles are mentioned in the Constitution, but firearms certainly are protected, and everybody knows it.”
Officials in both counties were not happy, but have indicated they are looking at the court’s opinions before deciding what to do next. As Judge VanDyke noted in his unusual concurring opinion to the 39-page formal court ruling, “I’m not a prophet, but since this panel just enforced the Second Amendment, and this is the Ninth Circuit, this ruling will almost certainly face an en banc challenge. This prediction follows from the fact that this is always what happens when a three-judge panel upholds the Second Amendment in this circuit.”
Also writing a concurring opinion was Judge Andrew Kleinfeld, who stated, “Neither pandemic nor even war wipes away the Constitution.”
Gottlieb, in a prepared statement, agreed with Judge VanDyke’s prediction of an en banc hearing and stated, “We’re prepared to fight that battle, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
The McDougall opinion, including the Kleinfeld and VanDyke concurring opinions, spans 60 pages.