A gun rights foundation has warned it may take legal action against Redwood City if city officials don’t reverse a recently approved moratorium on gun retail.
Just four days after the council unanimously voted to establish a moratorium on stores selling firearms or ammunition for an initial 45 days, the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), a Washington-based firearm advocacy nonprofit, sent a letter to the city, advising the city to remove the temporary ban or face litigation.
“Should Redwood City continue to deprive its residents of the ability to acquire arms and ammunition through an indeterminate moratorium on firearms and ammunition retailers from opening a business, SAF will examine all legal remedies available to it, its members, and those who may be affected by the City’s flagrant disregard of its citizens’ constitutional rights,” Executive Director Adam Kraut wrote in the letter dated Oct. 28.
According to the city, the urgency ordinance came after two separate gun retailers inquired about business permits in the city, which currently has no such retailers nor any special regulations on firearms sales.
The ban went into effect immediately after the council vote and could be extended for a total of two years.
“The city regulates where you can buy retail cannabis, where you can get gas for your car, where you can get a massage and even where you can build a home,” Mayor Giselle Hale said. “Why not explore where you can purchase a firearm?”
While Kraut acknowledged in the letter that zoning requirements around gun retail are permitted under rulings from the Ninth Circuit’s Court of Appeals, which includes Northern California, he wrote that “an outright bar is constitutionally impermissible.”
“It would be Redwood City’s policy of preemptively outlawing a firearm dealer within its jurisdiction, when none exists now, that makes the moratorium vulnerable to a facial challenge,” he said.
“Simply put, the right to keep and bear arms is meaningless without the right to acquire arms and ammunition,” he added.
The council vote on the ordinance followed nearly an hour of public comment, during which 25 residents shared strong opinions on both sides of the debate. Some residents supported the ordinance, arguing that prevention, or at least regulation, of gun shops in Redwood City was critical for public safety.
Roosevelt Principal Tina Mercer voiced strong opposition to the location of the proposed retailers. Roosevelt Plaza, applicant Dumpling Defense applied to open its storefront, is within walking distance of Roosevelt Elementary and Kennedy Middle schools.
“With the attention on school shootings in the last decade, we practice lockdown drills a number of times each year,” she said. “What message would it send for us to do lockdown drills when guns are being sold almost right across the street?”
Others, like Roosevelt Plaza manager Maria Rutenburg, urged the council to vote no on the ordinance, citing the constitutional right to bear arms.
Describing the Second Amendment as “sacred to a lot of people,” Rutenburg warned the council that the ordinance would invite litigation. “This is going to be a national case. This is a big deal, and we’re not going to let it go.”
The Second Amendment Foundation has filed dozens of lawsuits against cities and government officials for alleged constitutional violations. In 2009, the foundation won its case against Washington, forcing the state to reverse its ban on issuing firearms permits to immigrants. In 2012, SAF joined in a lawsuit brought by John Teixeira against Alameda County, challenging its ordinance prohibiting gun stores within 500 feet of a residential zone. The plaintiffs won their initial case, but the decision was ultimately reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which said that “no historical authority suggests that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to sell a firearm.”
The council will be discussing the “significant exposure to litigation” during a closed session before the regular Monday night meeting.