Gun control advocates are ramping up their efforts to shut down gun stores across the country, with a growing number of advocates taking to friendly media outlets in order to present their case. One of the latest attempts to undermine the Second Amendment rights of Americans comes from Rene Reyes, a constitutional law professor at Suffolk University in Boston, who says in a new op/ed that declaring gun stores essential businesses means that governors are giving the right to keep and bear arms “preferential treatment and elevating them over other fundamental freedoms in a time of shared sacrifice.”
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, we dismantle Reyes’ argument, as well as similar objections from a Maryland delegate who claims that lines at gun stores means people are panic buying, and therefore must be stopped.
Let’s start with Prof. Reyes’ claims that orders forcing gun stores to close indefinitely are constitutionally sound. Reyes says that other rights are being restricted right now, including the right to publicly assemble, so why shouldn’t the Second Amendment also be restricted?
The First Amendment right to free exercise of religion is specifically enumerated in the Constitution, yet there can be no doubt that this right is presently subject to significant limitations in the name of public health and safety. Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited under Baker’s order, and no exceptions have been carved out for religious gatherings. The resulting burdens on religious exercise are keenly felt by many people–particularly as we approach the season of holidays like Easter and Passover.
Other rights and freedoms have similarly been burdened. The right to travel has long been regarded as fundamental in Supreme Court jurisprudence, but limitations on that right abound in the current climate. People have been told not to leave their homes other than for essential trips; hotels have been closed; and new arrivals to states have been asked to self-quarantine for weeks. The right to suffrage is another example. The right to vote has often been described as one of the most fundamental of all freedoms insofar as it is the means of protecting other rights and liberties, yet many jurisdictions have at least temporarily burdened this right by postponing their elections until the health crisis abates.
With all due respect to Reyes, no one is telling Americans that they can’t pray, or that they must pray. Public worship services may be limited to a small number of people, but the government isn’t preventing churches from offering services online. If you want to join a church today, you can, though you may not be able to attend services in the sanctuary for a few more weeks.
Not so when it comes to gun ownership in places like Massachusetts, where Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered gun stores closed. There are no workarounds for those hoping to legally obtain a firearm in the state. You can’t go online and have a firearm shipped to your home, because that’s against federal law. You can’t buy a gun from a friend because that’s a violation of state law, at least without a background check, and no gun stores are open to conduct those checks.
Reyes is closer when he talks about limits on our right to travel, but honestly, I’m not sure that some of the restrictions that we’ve seen are constitutional either. Gunnison County, Colorado, for instance, has banned entry for non-residents, and I’d love to see that challenged in court because I suspect it would be quickly overturned. As for postponing elections, there’s no constitutional requirement that primaries must be held on a certain day, and moving elections back a few weeks doesn’t deprive anyone of their right to vote.
Open-ended emergency orders that shut down gun stores for an undetermined amount of time, on the other hand, absolutely do prevent and prohibit individuals from exercising their constitutional right to keep and bear arms, unless they’re already gun owners. In Massachusetts, even current gun owners can’t purchase ammunition at the moment, which may also prevent them from being able to use their firearm for self-defense if need be.
Reyes’ argument is incredibly weak, but it’s actually better than the argument put forth by Maryland Del. Karen Lewis Young, who told WMFD radio that the surge in gun sales is reason enough to shut stores down.
Delegate Young said those people lining up in front of gun stores to purchase weapons appear to be stockpiling. “If people are stockpiling, which they are, there’s an indication of paranoia and perhaps panic. That concerns me. You can’t fight the coronavirus with a gun. That isn’t going to do you any good,” she says.
In addition, Young says this increase in firearms puts a lot of vulnerable populations in danger. “At this vulnerable times, when people are on edge, they’re confined to their homes, this leads to a domestic violence spike, suicide spike,” she says.
Gun rights supporters say letters like these promote an anti-Second Amendment agenda. Delegate Young takes issue with that. “The First Amendment gives us the right to assemble. And we’ve put that aside for the safety of our constituents,”: she replies
Those opposed to this request also say people who live in rural areas need guns for personal protection since law enforcement resources are limited, and they need firearms to protect their livestock for predatory animals. “People who live in rural areas have guns already,” she responds “What’s happening is stockpiling and paranoia. And this is something totally different. This is not business as usual.”
Nobody’s trying to fight the coronavirus with a gun, and Del. Young only hurts her cause by parroting the anti-gun talking point. We also haven’t done away with our right to assemble, though there may be restrictions on public gatherings. Still, if 200 people want to get together online to petition the government for a redress of grievances, they’re free to do so. Again, that’s simply not the case when it comes to the Second Amendment.
Young is also wrong when she says everyone in rural America already own guns. I know the last time I talked to my local gun store in Farmville, Virginia, they too were seeing a surge in new customers and first-time gun buyers. Honestly though, the argument that rural Americans should have some sort of special exemption allowing them to purchase firearms right now doesn’t fly with me. I may live in a rural county, but my right to keep and bear arms is no more or less important than the right of someone who lives in a city or suburb. It’s not a right of the rural to keep and bear arms, it’s a right of the people.
Also on today’s program we have the story of a man arrested for murder in Baltimore, Maryland who should have been behind bars to begin with, an armed homeowner in Phoenix, Arizona who shot and wounded a home invader, and a Quincy, Massachusetts police officer in the right place at the right time to lend a helping hand to a elderly gentleman in need. Be sure to check out the entire show above, and thanks as always for watching, listening, and spreading the word!