Perhaps no political issue in the past 20 years has captivated the public’s attention quite like the issue of the Second Amendment to the Constitution and the idea of firearm possession. Questions like, “Who canown a gun?” “Who should own a gun?” and “What restrictions can we place on owning a gun?” have permeated public discussion throughout every election cycle in recent memory. Because board members have extensive decision making power over their associations, it may seem logical that board members want to regulate (or not) firearm possession within their communities.
Before attempting to enact any rules relating to firearm possession, board members should be aware that the Supreme Court of the United States has had its say when it comes to regulating firearm possession in a person’s private home. The Court has made it clear that any restriction against a private person keeping firearms in his/her home will be invalidated as a violation of the Constitution. The use of guns in the home is a fundamental right protected by the Second Amendment. What this means for associations is that board’s are restricted from enacting policies that would prohibit an owner from having a firearm in his/her home.
So what rules can a board create to regulate firearm possession on association property? While the Court has been clear on allowing guns inside the home, it has been equally as clear that the right to firearm possession is not absolute. As everyone who lives in an association is aware, living in a community association sometimes means sacrificing individual rights for the greater good of all owners. Several commentators have made the argument that banning firearms in the clubhouse, pool, meeting rooms, and other common elements could give a peace of mind to some owners that far outweighs the burden placed on other owners who would be required to leave their weapons at home.
Given the importance that the Court has placed on the right to firearm ownership, it should be noted that courts will be inclined to strike down any rules that makes gun possession in the home difficult or impossible. Restrictions on firearm possession while on the common elements of the association should allow exceptions for transporting guns to and from the home. If the gun owner cannot reasonably get his/her weapon to his/her home without crossing over a common element, then courts will be inclined to find that these restrictions violate his/her constitutional right.
Regardless of how board members are politically inclined as it relates to gun control, the board should be aware of the constitutional limits on restricting access to firearms both in the home and on the common elements of the association before making any decisions for their community.