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Fargo challenges new North Dakota law, seeking to keep local ban on home gun sales

Aug 4, 2023, 12:33 PM | Updated: 2:34 pm

Fargo is suing the state of North Dakota over a new law that bans zoning ordinances related to guns and ammunition, continuing a clash over local gun control.

The state’s biggest city has an ordinance that bans people from selling guns and ammunition out of their homes. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law this year that limits cities and counties from regulating guns and ammunition. The law, which took effect Tuesday, also voids existing, related ordinances.

The city’s lawsuit says the “stakes are much higher” and gets at whether the Legislature can “strip away” Fargo’s home rule powers. Fargo voters approved a home rule charter in 1970 that gave the city commission certain powers, including the power to zone public and private property.

“As it relates to this present action, the North Dakota legislative assembly is upset that the City of Fargo has exercised its home rule powers to prohibit the residents of the City of Fargo – and no one else – from the home occupation of selling firearms and ammunition and the production of ammunition for sale,” the lawsuit states. “Effectively, the City of Fargo does not want its residents to utilize their homes in residential areas as gun stores.”

The city successfully challenged a similar law two years ago.

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley told The Associated Press his office will evaluate the complaint. Fargo city spokesperson Gregg Schildberger said the City Commission will discuss the lawsuit on Monday during a regular meeting.

Bill sponsor and Republican state Rep. Ben Koppelman told a state Senate panel in April that the issue came to greater attention in 2016 when, because of the ordinance, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives refused to renew the federal firearms licenses of Fargo dealers who sold out of their homes.

“What is at issue is whether we want local governments creating gun control or whether we want gun regulations to remain a state-controlled issue,” Koppelman said in April. “Without this bill and in light of the (2021) court opinion, I think local political subdivisions could propose all sorts of local gun control, and based on the anti-gun track record of the City of Fargo Commission, I think we could expect it.”

Koppelman did not immediately respond to a phone message for comment.

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Fargo challenges new North Dakota law, seeking to keep local ban on home gun sales