The Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, along with an individual resident and a gun store, are suing New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Attorney General Gubir Grewal, and State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan over the emergency orders that have forced gun stores to end sales of firearms in the state indefinitely.
The complaint, filed in federal court, alleges that “prohibiting the sale and purchase of firearms and ammunition is akin to prohibiting the exercise of Second Amendment rights altogether,” and notes that acquiring a firearm is “the most fundamental prerequisite of legal gun ownership.” If you can’t acquire a firearm, how can you keep and bear it?
Despite the centrality of acquisition to Second Amendment rights, Governor Murphy has banned that activity throughout the State of New Jersey with the stroke of a pen, effectively preventing millions of citizens from obtaining a firearm for the first time. Governor Murphy’s ban is flatly contrary to the Second Amendment. Governor Murphy’s statements following the enactment of EO 107 have demonstrated that the Order is grounded in antipathy to Second Amendment rights. Governor Murphy recently remarked on his decision to classify firearm retailers as non-essential that “[a] safer society for my taste has fewer guns and not more guns.”
That remark by Murphy came from his press conference on Wednesday, when he was asked about closing the stores during the emergency.
“A safer society for my taste has fewer guns and not more guns,” Murphy said Wednesday at his daily coronavirus press briefing. “The guns that do exist are at the hands of the right people, particularly trained members of law enforcement.
“Crime has been down and let’s hope it stays down, but we’re very comfortable where we landed on that,” he continued, referring to his decision not to classify gun stores as essential businesses.
I wouldn’t be too comfortable if I were Murphy. As the ANJRPC lawsuit notes, courts in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals have ruled in a case called United States v. Marzzarella that a prohibition on the commercial sale of firearms is an “untenable” position for the state to take, but that’s the current situation in the Garden State.
The suit also notes that most governors across the country haven’t taken the same kind of draconian measures that Murphy eagerly adopted.
Several other Governors have issued similar orders closing non-essential business but have exempted firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers as essential. Those states include: Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. While the Governor of Pennsylvania initially excluded firearms dealers from the state’s list of “essential businesses,” on March 24, 2020, the Governor revised the policy to allow firearms dealers to “operate physical businesses on a limited basis to complete only the portions of a sale/transfer that must be conducted in-person under the law,” subject to restrictions that minimize social interactions and require that dealers implement social distancing, sanitization, and other mitigation measures to protect the public and employees.
It’s clear based on Murphy’s comments this week that he is using the coronavirus pandemic to dictate his own personal preferences to the millions of residents who aren’t yet gun owners. This isn’t about Phil Murphy’s “taste,” it’s about the constitutional rights of the people of New Jersey. Even in an emergency, the governor doesn’t have the authority to suspend the Second Amendment, and I’m hopeful that a federal judge will agree.