As thousands of Michigan residents took part in a rolling protest of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order on Wednesday, a legal group launched a federal lawsuit challenging several aspects of the governor’s executive order, including alleged violations of the Second Amendment rights of those in the state.
‘GOVERNOR, OPEN OUR ECONOMY ON MAY 1 AND RESPECT OUR RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS.’
Wild scene in Lansing, Michigan as hundreds of people protest the state’s stay-at-home order.
— Austin Kellerman (@AustinKellerman) April 15, 2020
“Operation Gridlock” is the name of the protest that saw hundreds of people gather on the capitol grounds in Lansing, Michigan, while hundreds more took to their cars and drove around the state capitol complex, all in an effort to force the governor to relax her order.
Meshawn Maddock, a spokesperson for the group, says there has been no action from Gov. Whitmer to promote both physical and economic health while the stay-at-home order is in effect.
“There is no reason why she can’t be looking at some safe ways to be opening up businesses. Instead of talking about what’s essential and nonessential, let’s talk about what’s safe and not safe,” Maddock said. “Safe businesses and safe workers need to get back to work.”
Meanwhile, the American Freedom Law Center’s new federal lawsuit alleges that Whitmer isn’t just keeping people away from work, but infringing on their rights as well. The lawsuit notes that Whitmer’s executive order on essential businesses does not include gun stores, though for the moment many stores remain open. Still, the suit argues, those hoping to purchase a firearm and ammunition are violating the governor’s order if they do exercise their right to acquire a firearm.
Executive Order 2020-42 orders all nonessential businesses and activities to cease. Though this order exempts “critical infrastructure,” Defendant Whitmer purposefully references an outdated list of such industries (issued March 19, 2020) rather than the most current federal guidelines (issued March 28, 2020) that designate firearm and ammunition retailers as critical. This deliberate action shuts down gun stores in order to deny citizens, including Plaintiff Muise, access to their Second Amendment rights and their rights protected by Article 1, § 6 of the Michigan Constitution.
As the lawsuit points out, under the govenor’s order Michigan residents can still leave their homes to purchase dog food or cannabis, but not firearms and ammunition. That, say attorneys for AFLC, is a violation of the Second Amendment and the Michigan state constitution.
Both the United States Constitution and the Michigan Constitution grant individuals a right to keep and bear arms for self-defense and to ensure the security of a free State. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution provides, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Article 1, § 6 of the 1963 Michigan Constitution, which is Michigan’s equivalent to the Second Amendment, states, “Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.”
The Second Amendment is fully applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Second Amendment and Article 1, § 6 guarantee the individual the right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation. At the core of this protection is the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens, such as Plaintiff Muise, to use arms in defense of “hearth and home.” In order for this right to have any meaning and effect, individuals must be permitted to purchase firearms and ammunition within the State. When a law burdens the fundamental right to bear arms, the government bears the burden of establishing that there is a reasonable fit between the asserted substantial or important governmental objective and the burden placed on the individual.
Executive Order 2020-42 fails to satisfy this burden, and this is evident by the numerous exceptions it provides for activity that is not protected by the United States or Michigan Constitutions.
This new lawsuit doesn’t just take on Whitmer’s order as it applies to gun stores. It also challenges the portion of the stay-at-home order that prevents people from traveling to cabins or other property that they own in the state, as well as limitations on the size of public and private gatherings.
From a legal perspective, a narrow lawsuit focused on just one aspect of Whitmer’s executive order might fare better in court, but there are good arguments to be made against every aspect of the governor’s order that’s being challenged in the AFLC lawsuit. I won’t predict how a judge will rule on the case, but in the court of public opinion, Gov. Whitmer’s actions clearly don’t have unanimous support from Michigan residents.