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



Fargo, North Dakota – In an ongoing dispute over municipal gun regulation, Fargo is suing the state of North Dakota over a new rule that prohibits zoning ordinances relating to firearms and ammunition.

An ordinance prohibits persons from selling firearms and ammunition out of their houses in the state’s largest city. This year, a measure that restricts the ability of towns and counties to regulate firearms and ammunition was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature. The bill, which became operative on Tuesday, also nullifies any previous, comparable ordinances.

The city’s lawsuit asks if the Legislature can “strip away” Fargo’s home rule privileges because the “stakes are much higher” in this case. When Fargo voters approved a home rule charter in 1970, it gave the city commission the authority to zone both public and private land, among other things.

“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.”

Two years ago, the city successfully challenged a related law.

The Associated Press was informed by North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley that the complaint will be investigated. Gregg Schildberger, a spokesman for the city of Fargo, stated that the City Commission will examine the case on Monday during a regular meeting.

Republican state representative Ben Koppelman, the bill’s sponsor, explained to a state Senate panel in April that the issue gained more attention in 2016 when 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 because of the ordinance.

“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.”

A phone message seeking comment from Koppelman did not receive an instant response.