Pennsylvania gun clubs and shooting ranges may soon enjoy new protections.
A lawsuit challenging the zoning restrictions on a Pittsburgh-area gun club will be allowed to proceed following a Federal Court ruling on Tuesday. A three-judge panel in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that a lawsuit against a locality’s restrictive zoning laws may proceed on Second Amendment grounds. It vacated the lower court’s dismissal of the suit and directed the district judge to reexamine the claims under heightened scrutiny.
“In identifying which rules invade the Second Amendment, we hunt for historical outliers,” Judge Cheryl Ann Krause wrote for the unanimous court. “Because the challenged zoning rules constitute outliers, and because the pleading-stage materials fail to justify their anomalous features, we will vacate the District Court’s dismissal order and remand for discovery.”
Robinson Township passed the zoning laws at issue after William Drummond leased the 256-acre Greater Pittsburgh Gun Club to sell firearms and operate a shooting range. Upon learning of Drummond’s plans, the township board sought to limit his activities and passed new rules that would prevent the use of center-fire rifles at Drummond’s club and force him to operate under non-profit status.
The Second Amendment Foundation filed suit against the township on behalf of Drummond in 2018, arguing that the township’s restrictive zoning requirements violated his Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The District Court dismissed the initial complaint, which was vacated and remanded by the Third Circuit in 2019. This latest ruling marks the second time that the Third Circuit has vacated and remanded the matter to the District Court.
Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said he is “delighted” with the ruling. He said the group is “confident of a favorable ruling in the case” once the lower court rehears it.
“Anti-gunners have tried to push restrictive zoning on gun clubs, ranges and gun stores in an effort to use zoning laws to make sure gun ranges and stores cannot operate,” he said in a press release. “It amounts to Second Amendment violations and business discrimination under color of law. That cannot be allowed.”
Lawyers representing Robinson Township did not respond to a request for comment.