Gunning for Gun Shows

The Ninth Circuit sided with Alameda County in the long-running fight over the county’s right to prohibit gun shows on the county fairgrounds.  The appeals court ruling May 2 makes it all but impossible hurdle for the gun show promoters to overcome if they hope to press forward.  Only regulations that “substantially burden” the right to own weapons will be subject to higher scrutiny by courts.

In addition, conservative Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain used the majority decision to throw a zinger at abortion rights saying it is not a “fundamental right” and allows for plenty of government restrict.  The dissenter in the gun case, Judge Ronald Gould, takes him to task for the anti-abortion asides. “This appeal is not about abortion rights and the opinion of the court errs, I think seriously, when it inserts its views on abortion rights in a Second Amendment controversy,” Gould says. 

 This gun show case has bounced around the court since 1999 and still isn’t over .  By a 2-1 vote the panel upheld dismissal of the lawsuit by Russell and Sallie Nordyke, who operate a business promoting gun shows across the state.

In Alameda County those shows routinely draw 4,000 people but the county also has plenty of gun violence and wanted to get out of the business of renting its fairgrounds to sell guns.  Once the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2008 that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess weapons in their home the Nordyke case heated up again.

An 11-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit sent it back to the three judges in 2009 for a second look.  Monday’s ruling holds that Alameda County can regulate gun shows on county property so long as it does not significantly burden the private right to own firearms. 

The court sent the case back to the trial judge with instructions to allow the Nordykes to amend their lawsuit, if they choose.  Gould would have given the county even more leeway to limit weapons sales.  But the majority adopted a middle ground.   That’s where it stands – for now.

 Case:  Nordyke v. King, 07-15763 (9th Circuit)

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