A lawyer for two gun show operators asked an 11-judge panel of a federal appeals court in San Francisco Thursday to overturn an Alameda County ban on gun shows at the annual county fair in Pleasanton.
Donald Kilmer, representing Russell and Sallie Nordyke, told the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, "Our position is to have Second Amendment rights apply to all citizens in the country."
The Nordykes, who are from Willows in Glenn County, say the ban enacted by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1999 violates their constitutional Second Amendment right to bear arms.
The county contends the law is a reasonable public safety measure, passed in the wake of a 1998 shooting at the fair in which eight people were injured.
Sayre Weaver, a lawyer for the county, argued, "The county actually had a shooting incident at the fairgrounds. It had 11 liability lawsuits and it had eight people shot, four of them children."
There are two key issues in the long-running lawsuit, initially filed by the Nordykes in 1999.
The first - which is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court - is whether the Second Amendment applies to state and local laws as well as federal laws.
In a landmark ruling last year, the U.S. Supreme Court said the Second Amendment includes an individual right to possess guns and that federal laws could not intrude on that right. But the court left unresolved whether the Second Amendment limits state and local laws.
The county contends that three 19th-century Supreme Court decisions show that the amendment doesn't extend to local laws and that only the high court itself can change that doctrine.
"The Supreme Court has made very clear that the court reserves for itself the right to overrule its own cases," Weaver argued to the appeals court.
The second issue is whether the Alameda County law fits into an exception in which the high court said last year that gun bans can be allowed in "sensitive places" such as public buildings and schools.
The 11 judges on the panel asked questions on all sides of both issues and did not indicate how they will rule. They took the case under consideration after an hour-long hearing and will issue a written ruling later.