Teixeira v. County of Alameda, 051616 FED9, 13-17132
|Opinion Judge:||O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||John Teixeira; Steve Nobriga; Gary Gamaza; Calguns Foundation, Inc., (CGF); Second Amendment Foundation, Inc., (SAF); California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, (Cal-FFL), Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. County of Alameda; Alameda County Board of Supervisors, as a policy making body; Wilma Chan, in her official capacity; Nate Miley, in his...|
|Attorney:||Donald E. J. Kilmer, Jr., San Jose, California, argued the cause and filed the briefs for the plaintiffs-appellants. With him on the opening brief was Charles W. Hokanson, Long Beach, California. Scott J. Feudale, County Counsel, Alameda County, California, argued the cause for the defendants-app...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Barry G. Silverman, and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges. SILVERMAN, Circuit Judge,|
|Case Date:||May 16, 2016|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit|
Argued and Submitted December 8, 2015 San Francisco, California
Appeal from the United States District Court No. 3:12-cv-03288-WHO for the Northern District of California William Horsley Orrick III, District Judge, Presiding
The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's dismissal for failure to state a claim, and remanded in an action brought by three individuals wishing to operate a gun shop in Alameda County, California, who challenged a County ordinance, which among other things, does not permit prospective gun stores to be located within 500 feet of a residentially zoned district.
Affirming the dismissal of the Equal Protection claims, the panel determined that this was not a situation where one group was being denied a right while another similar group was not. The panel held that because the right to keep and to bear arms for self-defense is not only a fundamental right, but an enumerated one, it was more appropriately analyzed under the Second Amendment than the Equal Protection Clause. The panel further held that plaintiffs failed to plead a cognizable class-of-one claim because they had neglected to identify a similarly situated business.
Reversing the dismissal of plaintiffs' Second Amendment claims, the panel held that the County had offered nothing to undermine the panel's conclusion that the right to purchase and to sell firearms is part and parcel of the historically recognized right to keep and to bear arms. The panel held that the Ordinance burdened conduct protected by the Second Amendment and that it therefore must be subjected to heightened scrutiny-something beyond mere rational basis review.
The panel held that under heightened scrutiny, the County bore the burden of justifying its action, and that the district court should have required the County to provide some evidentiary showing that gun stores increase crime around their locations or negatively impact the aesthetics of a neighborhood. The panel held that if on remand evidence did confirm that the Ordinance as applied, completely bans new guns stores (rather than merely regulating their location), something more exacting than intermediate scrutiny would be warranted.
Concurring in part and dissenting in part, Judge Silverman agreed that the equal protection claims were correctly dismissed, but dissented from the majority's opinion regarding the Second Amendment. In Judge Silverman's view this case was a mundane zoning dispute dressed up as a Second Amendment challenge and the district court correctly ruled that the ordinance restricting the location of a gun store is "quite literally a 'law imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.'"
We must decide whether the right to keep and to bear arms, as recognized by the Second Amendment, necessarily includes the right of law-abiding Americans to purchase and to sell firearms. In other words, we must determine whether the Second Amendment places any limits on regulating the commercial sale of firearms.
In the fall of 2010, John Teixeira, Steve Nobriga, and Gary Gamaza decided to open a retail business that would offer firearm training, provide gun-smith services, and sell firearms, ammunition, and gun-related equipment. The three formed a partnership named "Valley Guns & Ammo" and set to work on making their plan a reality. The trio conducted an extensive survey of Alameda County, California residents and discovered that existing retail establishments failed to satisfy customer demand. The men believed that Alameda County residents were in need of a more personal experience, and were likely to embrace a business that could provide a broader range of services not offered by existing sporting goods retailers. The City of San Leandro appeared to be the ideal location for their gun store.
Teixeira had operated an Alameda County gun store previously and was thus well aware of the maze of federal, state, and local regulations that he and his partners would have to navigate before they could open shop. Teixeira and Nobriga qualified for federal firearm licenses; all three men were eligible for California licenses. All that remained was to ensure that Valley Guns & Ammo would be in compliance with the Alameda County code.
In unincorporated Alameda County, two species of retailers must obtain "Conditional Use Permits" before they are authorized to conduct business: "superstore[s]" and "firearms sales business[es]." Alameda Cty., Cal., Code §§ 17.54.130–132 ("the Ordinance"). The County reviews applications to determine whether there is a "public need" for a proposed business, whether the business will "affect adversely the health or safety of persons residing or working in the vicinity, " and whether the business would be detrimental to the public welfare or property. Id. § 17.54.130. The County will not issue a permit to a prospective gun retailer until the applicant proves, among other things, that it (1) possesses the requisite state and federal licenses, (2) will store firearms and ammunition lawfully, and (3) the proposed location of the business is not within five hundred feet of a "[r]esidentially zoned district; elementary, middle or high school; pre-school or day care center; other firearms sales business; or liquor stores or establishments in which liquor is served." Id. §§ 17.54.130–131. Finally, firearms sellers must obtain a county firearms dealer license. Id. § 17.54.131.
The Alameda County Planning Department informed Teixeira, Nobriga, and Gamaza (collectively "Teixeira") that the 500-foot zoning requirement was to be measured from the closest door of the proposed business location to the front door of any disqualifying property. Relying on such guidance, Teixeira settled on a suitable property on Lewelling Boulevard in San Leandro. The building he chose had only one door, which faced Lewelling Boulevard. Teixeira obtained a survey showing that the closest residential property (from door to door) was located 532 feet away, across Interstate 880 in San Lorenzo Village. The next closest disqualifying properties, similarly measured, were a residence located 534 feet away and another property located 560 feet away (the latter also on the far side of the Interstate). Teixeira met with the landlord of the chosen premises, agreed to a lease, and began conducting preparations to ensure that the property would comply with myriad state and federal regulations.
The West County Board of Zoning Adjustment scheduled a hearing and the Planning Department issued a "Staff Report." Aside from raising concerns regarding compliance with the "Eden Area General Plan, "1 the report found that there was indeed a "public need" for Valley Guns & Ammo's services, that the proposed business would not affect adversely the health or safety of local residents, that it had obtained all required licenses, and that Teixeira had sufficient knowledge to operate a gun store. The report nevertheless concluded that a zoning variance would be required because the proposed site, contrary to the survey Teixeira had commissioned, was in fact within 500 feet of a residential property and therefore failed to qualify for a permit. The report explained that the County had chosen to measure from the closest building exterior wall of the proposed site to the closest residential property line rather than from door to door. As a result, it determined that the nearest residential property was only 446 feet away-54 feet too close under the 500-foot rule. The report recommended against approving a variance.
Despite the report, at a public hearing on December 14, 2011, the West County Board of Zoning Adjustments voted to grant a variance and approved the issuance of a permit. Noting the violation of the 500-foot rule, the Board reasoned that the "situation [was] unique" and thus a variance was appropriate because Interstate 880, as well as other obstructions, prevented "direct traversable access at a distance less than 500 feet from the site to a residentially zoned district." The Board determined that Teixeira's proposal otherwise complied with the Conditional Use Permit requirements, and that it was not counter to the Eden Area General Plan. Teixeira was informed that the decision would be final unless an appeal were filed by December...
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