NATIONAL NEWS

A judge has dismissed Fargo’s challenge to North Dakota restrictions on local gun control

Feb 23, 2024, 9:22 AM

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by North Dakota’s largest city that challenged a new law banning zoning ordinances related to guns and ammunition.

Fargo sued last year, calling the law unconstitutional and a swipe at the city’s home rule powers. State District Judge Cherie Clark on Tuesday granted the state’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the city’s complaint.

“While the Court agrees that (the North Dakota Constitution) intends for ‘maximum local self-government,’ the law is not settled that this language alone provides home rule cities the right to legislate on topics the state legislature has limited,” the judge wrote.

But she also expressed concerns about the Legislature’s actions: “If the legislature continues to pare home rule powers, home rule cities lack the discretion to address important issues impacting their respective and unique communities.”

Fargo has an ordinance banning people from conducting certain businesses out of their homes, including gun and ammunition sales, mortuaries, dog grooming and vehicle repair.

Last year, the Republican-led Legislature passed the law restricting the ability of cities and counties to regulate guns and ammunition, including purchase, sales and possession. The law took effect in August. It voids existing ordinances.

Previously, Fargo successfully challenged a similar 2021 law.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said city officials will meet with their legal team on next steps.

“The previous time that we challenged it, it did it come back in our favor, so that’s what we’re going to have to see — what’s changed and do we need to take a different position on it,” he said.

In its lawsuit, the city said it doesn’t want residents to use their homes as gun stores but added that the case hits at a larger issue of whether the Legislature can “strip away” Fargo’s home rule powers, which allow the city certain authority, such as zoning public and private property.

Republican Rep. Ben Koppelman, the 2023 bill’s sponsor, told a Senate panel last year 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. At issue in the bill was whether gun regulations should be a locally or state-controlled issue, he previously said.

Koppelman did not immediately respond to a text message for comment on the lawsuit’s dismissal.

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A judge has dismissed Fargo’s challenge to North Dakota restrictions on local gun control