Gun Groups Sue NJ Governor Over Order Suspending Gun Sales

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has ordered all gun stores in the state to remain closed during the declared state of emergency over the coronavirus, but several gun groups are launching lawsuits aimed at rescinding the order in the hopes of helping state residents protect themselves when they are most vulnerable.

Murphy’s order not only declares gun stores to be “non-essential” businesses, but according to the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, the governor has shut off access to NICS for firearm retailers.

Although the Executive Order does not specifically discuss gun stores or ranges, it applies to all businesses except those specifically exempted, and gun stores and ranges are not listed as exempt (ironically, certain non-essential sellers  are exempted while gun sellers aren’t). Additionally, we have received specific “clarification” from the Governor’s office that:
  1.    Gun stores are not deemed “essential” and are therefore ordered closed (shutting off the flow of firearms and ammunition to honest citizens, who may need them in times of emergency);
  2. The National Instant Check System in NJ (NICS) for processing all firearms and ammunition transactions has been shut down completely; and
  3.   All ranges (indoor and outdoor, public and private) are ordered closed under a restriction on “recreational activities” (is developing proficiency to defend your life really just “recreation?”).

Now the ANJRPC says it’s prepping for a major lawsuit challenging the governor’s emergency order.

While ANJRPC continues to dialogue with the Governor’s office over this dramatic and unprecedented overreach, we are not optimistic about changing it through discussion.
Accordingly, ANJRPC is proceeding with rapid development of a major lawsuit to address these unconstitutional measures and to take Governor Murphy (and others in the executive branch of government) to task for overreaching and essentially suspending Second Amendment rights, at a time of emergency when those rights may be needed most for self-protection by the most vulnerable in society.
ANJRPC is also pursuing, at the federal government level, potential proposals that will incentivize states to protect Second Amendment rights in times of emergency instead of undermining them.

They’re not the only ones. The New Jersey Second Amendment Society and the Second Amendment Foundation, along with a New Jersey gun store and a resident who recently obtained his Firearms ID card allowing him to purchase a long gun, but who now can’t purchase a firearm because stores have been ordered closed.

From the initial filing in Kashinsky v Murphy:

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 or ammunition for the purpose of protecting themselves and their families (or for any other purpose). By their terms, these acts stand as a perpetual bar on firearms ownership.

While state and local governments have the power to reasonably regulate the keeping and bearing of arms, they do not have the power to prohibit the keeping and bearing of arms, nor do they have the power to close the channels of distribution by which people obtain firearms and ammunition.

Defendant Murphy’s directive (in Executive Order 107) that all dealers in firearms and ammunition must close themselves to the public, without exception, stands as a perpetual ban on purchasing firearms and ammunition.

Defendants’ policy or practice of making the State Police background check portal unavailable also stands as a perpetual ban on purchasing firearms and ammunition.

Defendants’ ongoing threat to enforce Executive Order 107 against the Plaintiffs and/or the Plaintiffs’ members, as well as their ongoing policy or practice of making the State Police background check portal unavailable, prevents the Plaintiffs and/or the Plaintiffs’ members from purchasing and selling firearms and ammunition, thus causing injury and damage that is actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The actions by Gov. Phil Murphy are an egregious abuse of power and authority, and I’m glad to see the lawsuits that are being filed. Obviously gun owners aren’t guaranteed a win in the courts, but unless we try, these orders are going to stand and countless residents are going to be denied their constitutional rights. Other states, including Illinois and Ohio, are specifically declaring gun stores to be essential businesses at the moment. If Phil Murphy won’t take that common sense step voluntarily, hopefully a federal judge will compel him to do so.