3rd Circuit revives Second Amendment challenge to zoning restrictions on gun club
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A federal appeals court on Tuesday said a federal judge should take another look at a Second Amendment challenge to a Pennsylvania township’s zoning restrictions on “sportsman’s clubs” shooting ranges.
The Robinson Township enacted the new zoning regulation after residents complained about William Drummond’s plans to reopen the Greater Pittsburgh Gun Club as a shooting range and to sell firearms there.
The new regulation governs sportsman’s clubs allowed to operate in interchange business districts. It requires the clubs to operate as nonprofits and to ban center-fire rifle practice. A different, more permissive ordinance governs shooting ranges allowed to operate in industrial and special conservation districts.
Judge Cheryl Ann Krause wrote the panel opinion that directed the trial judge to use intermediate scrutiny to examine the zoning restrictions.
The township will have to show on remand why it “embraced the unusual rim-fire rifle and nonprofit ownership rules over more common, less burdensome alternatives,” the appeals court said.
“If nonprofit status moderates commercial intensity, as the township insists, why permit for-profit shooting ranges?” the appeals court said. “And if center-fire rifles amplify noise and safety concerns, why allow them at shooting ranges—indeed, everywhere other than sportsman’s clubs? To the extent the township posits that adjacent uses or other circumstances explain its ‘truly exceptional’ decision to single out sportsman’s clubs, … it must support that position not with ‘lawyers’ talk’ but with actual ‘evidence.’”
The appeals court said the case is the first in the circuit to confront a Second Amendment claim challenging a restriction on firearms purchases or practice. And the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet considered such a case.
“While the right to bear arms may no longer present a ’vast terra incognita,’ uncharted frontiers remain,” the appeals court said.