Zoning Away the Constitution

Matt Yglesias points out that, the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Heller notwithstanding, DC residents still have no effective 2nd Amendment rights.

As Rob Goodspeed explains it’s all in the zoning. You can’t legally buy a gun in DC because there are no gun stores here. And to sell a gun to an out-of-state resident, a gun shop needs to actually ship the weapon to an in-state store that accepts responsibility for background checks, etc. And, again, there are no gun stores in DC. And there never will be gun stores in DC unless some part of the city is zoned so as to allow a gun store. And the city has no intention of doing any such thing.

I’m unable to load Goodspeed’s site at the moment but this is a very interesting point, indeed.

The Supreme Court has approved so-called “time, place, and manner” restrictions on various of the Bill of Rights.  For example, the state can require large groups wishing to assemble to obtain a permit to do so and can even restrict them to certain locations or otherwise take reasonable steps to minimize disruption of the rights of other citizens.

Certainly, though, a locality that effectively banned peacable assembly through zoning rules would find themselves sanctioned in court.  Can DC get away with simply declaring its entire area a “Second Amendment Free Zone”?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    IIRC cities have been required to zone areas for strip clubs in response to First Amendment challenges.

  2. Bithead says:

    Can DC get away with simply declaring its entire area a “Second Amendment Free Zone”?

    Until the whole issue gets dragged up before the court again, I suppose they can.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    Looking at this, the right may be able to have their cake and eat it to. We can have our cake on the 2nd amendment civil rights being upheld in Heller and we eat it to by pointing out the continued assault on our 2nd amendment civil rights by those on the left.

  4. John Burgess says:

    This piece from WTOP TV says there are six Federal Firearms Licensees in the District, one of whom might be willing to do the requisite transfers.

    Clearly, the District needs a gun shop to call its own.

    Now, getting a license to open a gun shop might provide its own difficulties, but if a gun-control activist can get a license–and Arena Stage–it might be done.

    Maybe, if DC were smart, it’d license a shop in a very high-rent district so that the overhead would add significantly to the price of the gun. That’d keep it out of some hands, perhaps, unless they were still cheaper on the street.

  5. Tlaloc says:

    Certainly, though, a locality that effectively banned peacable assembly through zoning rules would find themselves sanctioned in court.

    Isn’t that exactly what has happened with the popularity of so called “free speech zones” in recent years? Local areas ban the right of assembly and free speech in areas where it is inconvenient and then set aside separate (easily ignored) areas to allow the right within.

    The only difference here is that gun ownership involves an object rather than an action.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Besides which the real effect of Heller would seem to be that the cops can no longer take gun possession as automatic cause for arrest. However you got it you now have a right to carry it. In other words a whole lot of criminals lives just got easier.

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Since the right to keep and bear arms is personal, it is no longer legal to require the purchase of firearms be limited to ones home state as the right is universal. Applying equally to all locations. This is not a right that is to be regulated as that is an infringement which the 2nd amendment forbids.

  8. FredW says:

    Gee, its sort of like those parts of the country where abortions are legal, but nobody doctors are afraid to perform them.

  9. James Joyner says:

    Gee, its sort of like those parts of the country where abortions are legal, but nobody doctors are afraid to perform them.

    Aside from the right to own a gun being right there in the Constitution and the right to an abortion having been made up of whole cloth in 1973, the former is a positive right and the latter a negative one. Further, an adult can travel to another state to obtain an abortion. In the current regulatory environment, you can’t legally do that with guns.