Thursday, October 21, 2021

Pennsylvania Federal Judge Enforces Second Amendment in Zoning Case



In a significant win for supporters of Second Amendment rights, the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granted a preliminary injunction order to William Drummond and the Second Amendment Foundation, Inc. on October 13, 2021. 

Drummond had sought to open a sportsmans club at an existing range which had operated as the Greater Pittsburgh Gun Club since the middle 1960's. It consists of 265 acres in Robinson Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania. 

In December of 2017, Drummond entered into a lease to operate the club. On February 19, 2018, the Robinson Township Board of Supervisors commenced proceedings to deny Drummond the ability to operate the range, through a change in the zoning ordinance.

The Board denied Drummond's application for a zoning permit to operate the club. The lawsuit was brought by Drummond, with the aid of the Second Amendment Foundation, the zoning ordinance violated Drummond's Second Amendment Rights. 

The District Court dissmissed the lawsuit in January of 2019. The case was appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Third Circuit vacated the District Court's dismissal and sent the case back, based on the violation of the Second Amendment by the zoning ordinance. 

One of the findings of the court seems of particular significance. From the order:

Although the health, safety, and welfare are substantial government interests, the Township must provide some evidence of how the amendments to the Zoning Ordinance serve those substantial government interests. The government must “persuade us that ‘the recited harms are real, not merely conjectural, and that the regulation will in fact alleviate these harms in a direct and material way.’”

 Although the case took most of four years to resolve, this is a very significant win. Those who want to restrict Second Amendment rights must show real evidence of harm, not just a generic "health, safety, and welfare" claim. They must also show how their law or regulation will actually alleviate the harm. That is very difficult to do for Second Amendment rights. 

Judge Marilyn J. Horan, the United States District Judge, did as she was required to do. She issued the injunction. From the Preliminary Injunction Order:

Based on the foregoing findings of fact and conclusions of law, Plaintiffs’ Preliminary Injunction is hereby GRANTED as follows:

Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with them who receive actual notice of the injunction are enjoined from enforcing Robinson Township Zoning Ordinance Sections 311(D), 601, and 208, Table 208(A).

The township may try to continue the case, but it seems unlikely. Another case, in a Pennsylvania state Commonwealth Court reached a similar conclusion in a separate case brought in Monroe County in May of 2021. 

Federal courts in the Third Circuit and the Pennsylvania state courts are now in agreement. You cannot use zoning ordinances to shut down gun ranges simply because you do not like them. That violates the Second Amendment and is not allowed under the rule of law.

©2021 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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