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Courts & Justice

US Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit Over Pittsburgh-Area Gun Club Restrictions

Brazil Increasing Guns gun club rifles firing firearms
Leo Correa
/
AP
In this Jan. 10, 2019 photo, Rildo Anjos, owner of the Calibre 12 gun club, fires his pistol during a practice session at the club in Sao Goncalo, Brazil.

A federal judge should not have thrown out a legal challenge to township zoning rules that restricted operations at a gun range in western Pennsylvania and limited “sportsman's clubs" to nonprofit entities, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case and directed the district judge to gather evidence, saying Second Amendment rights require a closer examination of the facts than had occurred in the case.

The decision concerns William Drummond's plans to revive the dormant gun range and operate the Greater Pittsburgh Gun Club on a 265-acre property in suburban Robinson Township. The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the township's attempt to restrict what occurs on the property could violate the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

“In identifying which rules invade the Second Amendment, we hunt for historical outliers — laws that lack traditional counterparts,” wrote Judge Cheryl Ann Krause, nominated by former President Barack Obama. She said the challenged zoning rules “constitute outliers” and the materials generated so far in the litigation don't justify those “anomalous features.”

She said the case was the first in which her court or the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on restrictions on firearms purchases or practice.

A gun club on the property closed down in 2008, and in 2017 Drummond leased it with plans to sell guns and operate a shooting range.

Township residents pressed to limit activities there, and the township board adopted zoning rules that prevented shooting center-fire rifles and said the permitted sportsman's clubs would have to be nonprofit.

Drummond has argued that the zoning amendments keep his customers from practicing in the use of guns and is therefore a violation of constitutional rights.

Krause noted that other shooting ranges are allowed in the township, and said local officials need to explain why nonprofit status and the ban on center-fire weapons is appropriate for Drummond's club, as opposed to less restrictive approaches.

The township's lawyer, Trisha Gill, declined comment. A message was left for Alan Gura, who argued the case for Drummond.