Good news from the Live Free or Die State, where the New Hampshire Supreme Court on Friday ruled that a state lawmaker hoping to sue over a ban on guns at the State House imposed by Democrat lawmakers can bring a legal challenge against the prohibition.
Democrats imposed the gun ban in Representatives Hall when they took control of the state House in January of 2019, and State Rep. John Burt filed suit shortly thereafter. A superior court judge, however, initially ruled that Burt couldn’t sue over the gun ban, citing the separation of powers clause in the state constitution and declaring that the courts had no place to second-guess rules imposed by the legislative body.
In a unanimous decision, the state Supreme Court rejected the decision by the lower court, and ruled that Burt can indeed bring his legal challenge forward. The court recognized that the state legislature has the power to set its own rules, but that lawmakers don’t have a green light to pass unconstitutional measures.
However, “[o]ur conclusion that the constitution commits to the legislature [such] exclusive authority . . . does not end the inquiry into justiciability.” “The court system [remains] available for adjudication of issues of constitutional or other fundamental rights.” “While it is appropriate to give due deference to a co-equal 4 branch of government as long as it is functioning within constitutional constraints, it would be a serious dereliction on our part to deliberately ignore a clear constitutional violation.”
The Democrat House Speaker had argued that there was already a precedent on the books in New Hampshire that allowed lawmakers to impose the state house gun ban, but the justices on the state Supreme Court didn’t buy the argument. Instead, the justices sent Rep. Burt’s case back to the lower court for a full and complete hearing, but not before issuing a little reminder of their own about the fundamental importance of the right to keep and bear arms.
Today’s decision is no guarantee that the gun ban imposed by the Democratic majority will be tossed out by a judge, but at the very least it opens the door to that possibility. It also leaves Democrats in a tough spot politically, because the state Supreme Court has acknowledged in its opinion that the state house gun ban deals with the exercise of a fundamental right. Democrats in the state legislature have been treating the Second Amendment as a second-class right ever since they took control of the state House in the 2018 elections, and the state Supreme Court’s opinion is another reminder that the Democratic majority doesn’t see the U.S. or New Hampshire constitutions as providing any real protection against whatever gun control proposals they come up with.
House Speaker Stephen Shurtleff has already been accused of trying to retaliate against Rep. Burt over the lawsuit by removing him from the legislative committee that hears all gun-related bills in the House, and that was before today’s decision by the state Supreme Court. I have no idea what kind of stunt Shurtleff might pull as a result of today’s decision, but if I were Rep. Burt, I’d start checking my seat in the state House for whoopie cushions or thumbtacks before I sat down.