(CN) - Alameda County had the right to ban guns at its fairgrounds, the 9th Circuit ruled, rejecting an attempt by gun-show owners to compare their situation to the Scottish Games, which re-enact historic battles.
Judge O'Scannlain said the owners of TS Trade Shows, who sought to host a gun show at the fairgrounds, failed to meet the safety requirements necessary to overcome the county's ban on guns at the fairgrounds.
The county passed the ban in 1999, in response to a shooting at the annual county fair the previous summer.
Russell and Ann Nordyke, the owners of TS Trade Shows, urged the county to grant it the same exception it made for the Scottish Caledonian Games, whose participants re-enact historic battles using period firearms loaded with blank ammunition.
When the county refused, the Nordykes filed suit, claiming violations of their rights under the First and Second Amendments.
In the first round of appeals, the 9th Circuit rejected the Second Amendment claim on the basis that the right was collective and not individual.
The Nordykes later asked the court to revive that claim in light of the Supreme Court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which recognized an individual's right to keep and bear arms.
The federal appeals court agreed that Heller upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms. It then turned to whether the Second Amendment applies to the states. It ruled that it does, through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
But such application does not invalidate the challenged ordinance, the court added.
"[The ordinance] does not directly impede the efficacy of self-defense or limit self-defense in the home," O'Scannlain wrote. "Rather, it regulates gun possession in public places that are County property."
And because Heller maintained an exception for "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places," the county was free to ban guns at the fairgrounds, the court concluded.
It also rejected the Nordykes' claim that the ordinance violates their free-speech and equal-protection rights by banning gun shows while accommodating the Scottish Games.
"The Scottish Games, with their historical re-enactments, are a very different kettle of fish from the Nordykes and their gun shows," O'Scannlain wrote.
"Crucially, the Nordykes have not argued that they could meet the exception's requirement that firearms be secured whenever an authorized participant is not actually using them. No wonder. They have admitted that the very nature of gun shows, in which vendors show weapons to prospective buyers and admirers, makes it impossible."
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