A federal court ruled that some California counties’ lockdowns of gun stores violated the Second Amendment.
In March 2020, both Los Angeles County and Ventura County ordered gun stores to close their doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, Judge Lawrence VanDyke — writing on behalf of a three-judge panel for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — explained that the policies limited “the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” since the Second Amendment “means nothing if the government can prohibit all persons from acquiring any firearm or ammunition.”
“Under California’s highly regulated framework for firearms, law-abiding citizens can only obtain firearms and ammunition by arriving in-person to government-approved gun and ammunition shops,” he wrote. “These blanket prohibitions on access and practice clearly burden conduct protected by the Second Amendment and fail under both strict and intermediate scrutiny.”
“The governments’ designation of ‘essential’ businesses and activities reflects a government-imposed devaluation of Second Amendment conduct in relation to various other non-Constitutionally protected activities during times of crises, irrespective of any of the unique dangers presented by firearms, ammunition, or firing ranges,” VanDyke added.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) lauded the ruling.
“The court today rightfully recognized that Los Angeles County violated Second Amendment rights when it shut down gun stores and ranges in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NRA office of litigation counsel director Michael Jean. “This is an important decision. It ensures that California — or any state — cannot use a crisis to trample on the Constitutional rights of citizens.”
Beyond the Second Amendment, Los Angeles County cracked down on First Amendment rights through its lockdown policies — namely, by stopping church communities from meeting together. However, Pastor John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church eventually defied the regulations, meeting for Sunday worship without social distancing or mandatory masking.
“In response to the recent state order requiring churches in California to limit or suspend all meetings indefinitely,” MacArthur wrote in the summer of 2020, “we, the pastors and elders of Grace Community Church, respectfully inform our civic leaders that they have exceeded their legitimate jurisdiction, and faithfulness to Christ prohibits us from observing the restrictions they want to impose on our corporate worship services.”
In the fall of 2021, Grace Community Church won a $400,000 settlement from Los Angeles County following the Supreme Court’s ruling that some COVID-19 regulations could not apply to houses of worship. The state of California paid the church $400,000 as well, bringing the total to $800,000.
“We know that there is no circumstance that can cause the church to close,” MacArthur said in a letter. “The church is not only a building but is the bride of Christ and exists to proclaim the truth.”
“We are very pleased to see Pastor MacArthur and Grace Community Church’s First Amendment protections fully vindicated in this case,” said Jenna Ellis and Charles LiMandri of the Thomas More Society, which represented Grace Community Church. It has been a hard-fought battle to preserve religious liberty and we hope that this result will encourage Californians, and all Americans, to continue to stand that the church is essential.”
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