Does Your Community Have the Right to Ban Guns?
Given the ongoing and tragic events surrounding gun violence, the question of whether Condominium Owner Associations (COAs) or Homeowners Associations (HOAs) have the right to adjust their bylaws to restrict guns for property owners as well as visitors is very topical.
One could argue that the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution defends a person’s right from intrusion by the government which encompasses the principles to each of the states.
The application of the 14th Amendment as it applies to private zones has been widely disputed. It is impractical to examine all elements of this complex topic within a blog, so consider this more of an informal discussion of some the areas as they relate to COAs and HOAs. It is recommended if a Community Association is exploring this area, that the Association seek the experienced advice of their Association attorney. LM Funding can help direct you to the appropriate source for direction.
Restricting Guns Within a Unit
In answer to the question “Can an Association’s Board of Directors ban the storage of a gun inside a unit?,” the brief response is no. The Supreme Court has upheld the justification that one is entitled to retaining a firearm within a home unit to protect the unit and its owners. If a private community/association includes the ban of firearms within a private unit in its governing documents, it is extremely unlikely that it would struck down by court.
Firearm Restriction in a Community Association’s Common Areas
Since there is not currently a ruling that supports that transporting a gun by an individual within the private, common grounds of an Association as a “fundamental right”, COAs and HOAs can try to prohibit firearms while in these areas. The Second Amendment states that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding… laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”
If an Association includes the ban of firearms in common areas and the clause is challenged, the COA or HOA would need to be prepared to prove that the common area in question is a “sensitive area.” The example of the highly broadcasted case of Trayvon Martin’s death, which occurred in a private community, is a prime example of such an argument. This court recognized that the community could include restraints created to protect “the health, happiness and peace of mind of the unit owners.” Many property owners want to visit the pool area, exercise room, playground, etc. of their community association with the peace of mind knowing that weapons are restricted.
Bottom line? If your COA or HOA is considering amending, or currently has included, the ban of firearms in your Association’s common areas, it is highly recommended that you get professional advice on this topic.
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