The number of local declarations of emergency that have been issued around the country are going to grow in the coming days, and we’ve already seen several local declarations contain language that would curtail the ability to buy and sell ammunition. Is that legal?
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we speak with Amy Swearer of the Heritage Foundation and Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation to get an idea of what’s happening right now and what the legal response might be if, in fact, a city, town, or state were to attempt to suspend the exercise of our right to keep and bear arms during this national emergency.
As Swearer explains, we’ll likely see challenges to any attempted infringement on that right, but we don’t have a lot of case law to work with because we’re swimming in uncharted waters at the moment. However, one case out of North Carolina suggests that even in a state of emergency, governments can’t simply declare our rights to be null and void.
In 2010, the town of King, North Carolina instituted a local state of emergency based on winter storms, and that declaration included a ban on the possession of alcohol or firearms outside of the home. Under North Carolina law, the town was entitled to do so, but several individuals and groups ended up challenging the ban in court, and in 2012 a federal judge sided with the individuals who sued.
“While the bans imposed … may be limited in duration, it cannot be overlooked that the statutes strip peaceable, law-abiding citizens of the right to arm themselves in defense of hearth and home, striking at the very core of the Second Amendment,” Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard wrote in his order.
We may very well see similar challenges in the near future, though I would encourage every gun owner to be in contact with their local officials to urge them not to take any action that could result in the deprivation of an individual’s Second Amendment rights in a state of emergency.
The NSSF’s Larry Keane says there was some concern that city council members in Albuquerque, New Mexico were going to impose a similar ban on Monday night, but the instead the city council did the right thing and changed its original emergency powers ordinance that had been adopted in the 1960’s to remove language dealing with firearms.
The Civil Emergency Powers ordinance was initially passed in the 60s to address potential widespread rioting. City Councilman Pat Davis said the original bill includes many provisions that would be unenforceable today, such as closing down gun stores and gas stations.
Under the new version of the bill, Mayor Keller will have the authority to close streets, limit the quantities of certain items sold at stores and close places where big gatherings happen such as places of worship.
The mayor’s office also put out a statement specifically addressing concerns from gun owners.
“If we declare a public health emergency, it will be to tap into state and federal funding and allocate resources to limit the impact of COVID-19 on our entire community. The declaration would be in step with the President of the United States, the Governor of New Mexico, dozens of other states and cities around the country including the Mayor of Rio Rancho who have already made such declarations.”
“The legislation being considered tonight does not ban gun sales, confiscate guns, prohibit liquor sales, nor does it implement a curfew or close streets, and the Mayor’s declaration will not either.“
“Anyone suggesting otherwise is wrong, period. Stoking fear and mistrust will only harm our efforts to fight this public health emergency as a unified community.”
So the gun stores will remain open in Albuquerque, but will they have anything to sell? Keane says yes, noting that manufacturers of both firearms and ammunition are already responding to the surge in demand. The one snag, of course, would be if there are any factory shutdowns because of the coronavirus, but for now the supply chain is stable, though it’s having a bit of a hard time keeping up with demand at the moment.
Be sure to check out the entire show above, and thanks as always for watching, listening, and spreading the word.