The lockdowns and closing of “non-essential” businesses that were imposed by many governors in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have disappeared for the most part (to be replaced by vaccine and mask mandates), but many Republicans in the Michigan legislature are concerned that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s health department could try to bring back those lockdowns and business restrictions in the future. That’s why they’re proposing legislative language that would block state officials from using any state of emergency as an excuse to target gun owners and the exercise of their Second Amendment rights.
The House Oversight Committee heard testimony Thursday on HB 5187 and HB 5188, which would prohibit Michigan’s governor and state health department from issuing executive orders that limit or shut down shooting ranges or gun stores during an epidemic.
It would also ban any limits on how many guns could be bought at one time in Michigan during an epidemic.
Early on in the pandemic, the governor’s executive orders forced some gun stores to close along with other businesses during statewide shutdowns.
Marcy Jankovich, leader of the Well-Armed Woman group in Jackson County, spoke in front of the committee on Thursday in support of the legislation.
“I won’t stand for any of my civil rights to be violated,” she said.
Advocates of the bills, like Jankovich, say the bills simply take steps to protect the rights given in the Constitution in case the state tries to overstep its bounds.
“I have a right to bear arms and if you close the shops and you close the training, especially the training, then really you’ve infringed on that right,” said Jankovich.
Critics of the bills were also on hand to testify yesterday, and as expected, that included several “gun safety” activists; you know, the kind who swear they’re not anti-Second Amendment but have never found a gun control bill that goes too far for their liking.
“Legislatures cannot foresee all future emergencies or types of weapons so this seems like an unjustified and presumptuous action,” said Katie See, a group lead for the Great Lansing Area Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. “It’s clear that this is not a response to any particular actions taken by the governor or the department.”
Considering that some gun stores and ranges were forced to close, it seems silly for See to claim otherwise. Then again, it’s also laughable for See to argue that lawmakers can’t predict what other types of emergencies might come up in the future, or what “types of weapons” may emerge, so therefore they shouldn’t do anything to ensure that citizens today have their Second Amendment rights intact during a state of emergency. There is no asterisk in the Second Amendment that leads to fine print stating “shall not infringed shall not apply to government-declared states of emergency”. Your rights don’t disappear when your governor signs a proclamation, or at least they shouldn’t, and these bills would go a long way towards bringing Michigan in line with a majority of states that already have similar laws in place.
In fact, in my home state of Virginia the emergency powers legislation was approved on a bipartisan basis about a decade ago. Gov. Ralph Northam actually voted in favor of the bill when he was a legislator, which I’m sure he regretted last year when he tried to shut down gun ranges as part of his emergency declaration. Northam was sued by a gun range in Lynchburg, and the judge overseeing the case ruled that Northam’s order violated state law, allowing the range to re-open.
Because of the language in the emergency powers protection statute clearly states that the governor cannot do anything to limit or prohibit the rights of the people to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the state constitution or the Second Amendment, “including the otherwise lawful possession, carrying, transportation, sale, or transfer of firearms,” Northam never attempted to shut down gun stores, unlike his fellow Democratic governors in states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Mexico.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Northam would have gone after gun stores if Virginia didn’t have this emergency powers protection language in place. There’s also no question that Gretchen Whitmer will veto similar legislation if it gets to her desk. It’s going to be tough to pass these bills with a veto-proof majority, but hopefully there are a few swing district Democrats in the state House and Senate who don’t really want to run for re-election next year on a platform of making it difficult if not impossible to protect yourself and your family during a state of emergency.