It’s kind of amazing to me that even as all 50 states begin to lift their lockdown orders, there are still some anti-gun goofballs arguing that gun stores should be shut down over coronavirus concerns. Cate McClure is the former legal counsel for the Michigan Senate Democrats, and she has a piece at the Lansing State Journal laying out her case for why gun shops should be considered non-essential businesses as well as why she believes it’s perfectly acceptable for governors to infringe on the rights of citizens, as long as it’s done for the right reasons.
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co I dismantle McClure’s arguments, which, to be honest, wasn’t that difficult since the case she makes is so fundamentally flawed. McClure’s position is simply that governors have extraordinary powers and authority in a state of emergency, and constitutionally protected rights can be trampled on a whim if it’s done in the name of protecting the public health.
In the pandemic-driven disaster we currently face, despite NRA allegations to the contrary, there are no legal or public policy reasons to include gun stores as essential services in any of the stay-at-home orders in existence across the country. The NRA and their affiliates have filed multiple lawsuits – against New York, New Jersey and California among others – alleging that mandatory gun store closures amount to a violation of the Second Amendment. Yet U.S. constitutional law has always allowed for the curtailment of Bill of Rights guarantees where necessary to protect public health and where the restrictions are of general applicability and neutral, such that they do not single out a particular activity or organization.
McClure mentions several states where the NRA and other Second Amendment organizations have filed suit, but curiously, she leaves one state off the list. In Massachusetts, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock recently granted an injunction blocking Gov. Charlie Baker’s order closing gun stores, and made it clear that our Second Amendment rights don’t disappear in a state of emergency. What’s more, Woodlock pointed out that the state of Massachusetts couldn’t explain any public health benefit to keeping gun stores closed but allowing other retailers to open. In Michigan, where McClure lives, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer originally declared that only “life-sustaining businesses” were allowed to remain open. McClure believes that gun stores aren’t life-sustaining, but millions of Americans would disagree, including many who’ve become gun owners for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The numerous state and municipal stay-at-home orders currently in place, including ours in Michigan, of necessity impact many of the rights we cherish; the right to assemble, to practice religion and the right to free speech among the most obvious. They correctly do so in order to limit the spread of the virus to a level our public health system can manage, and they are of general applicability, impacting as they do all normal activity except that which is essential to sustaining life.
With our First Amendment rights so limited, why should the right to bear arms be treated differently? The stay-at-home orders do not, in fact, even directly implicate the right to own a gun, only the right to buy a new gun during this unprecedented, albeit limited, period. There is no legal justification for elevating this right over others.
I don’t think it’s a matter of elevating the Second Amendment over other rights, but McClure’s protest that stay-at-home orders don’t directly implicate the right to own a gun is absurd. In states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, and other states with universal background check laws on the books, the only way to legally acquire a firearm is through a gun store; either through a retail sale or with the gun store running a background check on a private transfer. If you have the right to keep and the right to bear, you must have the right to acquire as well. Shutting down gun stores therefore completely negates the right to keep and bear arms for those Americans who don’t currently own one. That’s not a regulation, that’s an infringement.
So how can the NRA and its affiliates justify the precious governmental time and resources they are taking up with these apparently merit-less lawsuits? There is certainly no justification on public policy grounds. At a time when anxiety levels of all Americans are at an all-time high, with suicide and domestic violence hotlines overwhelmed across the country, it is not in the public interest to allow continued gun sales while disallowing the right to leave one’s house for social and religious support. Trump administration policy guidance to the contrary, gun stores should not be treated the same as grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals.
For one thing, the NRA and organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, and the Firearms Policy Coalition have clearly demonstrated that these lawsuits indeed have merit. They’ve been successful in forcing states to reopen gun stores, and judges in several states have issued stinging rebukes to governors for overstepping their constitutional authority in closing them. Once again, the failure of McClure to even mention what happened in Massachusetts demonstrates the frailty of her argument, which simply can’t stand up to the facts.
McClure also errs when she proclaims that there’s no public policy justification for keeping gun stores open. On the contrary, it’s the State that must demonstrate a public policy reason for ordering them closed, and states like Massachusetts have failed to do so. Even McClure doesn’t attempt to explain why marijuana retailers are considered “life sustaining” in Michigan, but gun stores are not.
As for McClure’s assertion that “it is not in the public interest to allow continued gun sales while disallowing the right to leave one’s house for social and religious support,” the obvious answer is to respect the right to leave one’s house for social and religious support, not to deny people the right to acquire a firearm. McClure’s mindset is one that would allow governments to trample on all of our rights, as long as officials proclaimed it was necessary to do so. It’s a ridiculous argument, but unfortunately one that many anti-gun activists share.
Be sure to check out the entire takedown of McClure’s piece in the video window above, and stick around for more stories, including a man charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and attempted murder who was allowed to plea bargain his way to probation, a home invasion in South Carolina thwarted by an armed homeowner, and a Georgia police officer going above and beyond to help a homeless veteran.