Okay, perhaps the headline is a little hyperbolic, but it really is good to see a growing number of lawsuits being filed over the closures of gun stores and the suspension of some gun licensing requirements around the country.
Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation joins me on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co to talk about the organization’s federal lawsuit challenging New Jersey’s suspension of background checks, which has put a screeching halt to virtually every legal gun sale and transfer in the state. That in turn is depriving countless residents of their ability to protect and defend themselves with a firearm.
In an amended complaint, the SAF, along with the Firearms Policy Coalition, the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, and several New Jersey residents, argue that Gov. Phil Murphy’s order and the decision by the commander of the New Jersey State Police to quit conducting background checks violates both the Second and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Defendants’ acts of prohibiting the operation of retail firearms businesses without regard to their manner of operation and of foreclosing any ability to access the background check portal prohibit law-abiding individuals from purchasing firearms for the purpose of protecting themselves and their families (or for any other purpose). Independently and collectively, these acts stand as a perpetual bar on firearms ownership.
State and local governments do not have the power to prohibit the keeping and bearing of arms, nor to close the channels of distribution by which people obtain firearms.
Defendant Murphy’s directive (in Executive Order 107) that all dealers in firearms must close to the public, without exception, stands as a ban on purchasing firearms.
Defendants’ policy or practice of making the State Police background check portal unavailable, and of refusing to process background checks submitted on March 20-21, 2020, independently stands as a perpetual ban on purchasing firearms.
The argument that Murphy’s executive order, coupled with the decision by the State Police to stop conducting background checks, amounts to a ban on purchasing firearms is absolutely correct. At the moment, there is absolutely no way for a New Jersey resident to legally acquire a firearm at the moment, and because Murphy’s order to close gun stores doesn’t come with an expiration date, we have no way of knowing when those residents might be able to get one. This isn’t a regulation, but a full stoppage of the right to acquire firearms, and even during a state of emergency this shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
We’ve seen orders from governors that limit public gatherings to ten or fewer people, including churches, but no governor has come out and said that praying will be punishable by law. Murphy, though, is saying that anyone acquiring a firearm in the state of New Jersey at the moment will be breaking the law, because he’s taken away every legal means of doing so.
According to Gottlieb, an initial conference was held this afternoon and U.S District Judge Michael Shipp, an appointee of President Obama in 2012, declined to offer immediate relief to the plaintiffs. Instead, the state of New Jersey has until Friday, April 3rd to respond to the lawsuit, and the plaintiff’s response brief is due on April 7th. The case will proceed, in other words, but unless Murphy changes his mind on his own accord, gun stores in New Jersey are likely going to remain shuttered for at least the next few weeks.
Gottlieb says his organization will also be filing a lawsuit in Washington State, where Gov. Jay Inslee has also declined to declare gun stores are essential businesses that are allowed to remain open. The governor’s defense is that this measure is only temporary, but even a temporary deprivation of one of our most fundamental rights is unconstitutional and should be struck down by the courts.
Gun owners recognize the unique circumstances we all find ourselves in right now, and nobody is suggesting that governments can’t take truly reasonable steps to protect the health of the public at large. What we are saying is that closing gun stores isn’t reasonable, particularly when so many Americans are purchasing firearms and ammunition for self-defense. I think the owners of gun stores would be willing to accept, on a temporary basis, social distancing measures like limiting the number of customers in stores at any given time, but forcing their stores to close is a bridge too far.
We’ve already seen Gov. Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania amend his original order to allow for gun stores to operate with social distancing measures in place. That was the right move, and I hope Inslee and Murphy soon follow suit.
In addition to our conversation with Gottlieb, we also have an update on an earlier armed citizen story out of Georgia, as well as a heartwarming good deed for a little boy celebrating his third birthday in Richland, Washington. Don’t forget to subscribe to Townhall Media on YouTube or the Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co podcast on Apple Podcasts for your daily dose of Second Amendment news and information from all across the nation, and as always, thanks for watching, listening, and spreading the word.