SAN FRANCISCO -- A years-long showdown over the right to bear arms in California's Alameda County appeared to end Friday after officials agreed to allow tightly restricted gun shows on government property.
A special, 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county's revised interpretation of the gun show ordinance makes it constitutional. That ordinance allows gun dealers to sell their wares on county property so long as the guns are unloaded and attached by a sturdy cable to a display table.
The county had previously used the 1999 ordinance to ban gun shows altogether, and Russell and Sallie Nordyke, a Glenn County couple and promoters of TS Gun Shows, filed a lawsuit.
The Nordykes received a big boost in 2008 when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized gun ownership as a fundamental right in a Washington, D.C., case and again in 2010 when the high court ruled that fundamental right extends to residents of state and municipalities.
On Friday, the 9th Circuit ruled that the county's concession in recent weeks to allow gun shows at the Pleasanton Fairgrounds solved a Second Amendment legal drama that had ricocheted up and down the federal court system for 12 years. The result was a specific ruling that skirted the fundamental question of whether local government's can ban guns shows.
"No matter how broad the scope of the Second Amendment – an issue we leave for another day – it is clear that, as applied to the plaintiffs' gun shows, and as interpreted by the county, this regulation is permissible," Judge Susan Graber wrote for the court.
The court technically ruled against the Nordykes and upheld the ordinance, which bans gun possession on government property but allows for exceptions for participants in "a motion picture, television, video, dance or theatrical production or event."
County officials now classify a gun show as an "event." Graber said the Nordykes could reinstate their lawsuit if county officials change their interpretation of gun shows.
The court left for another day the constitutionality of the gun possession ban on government property.