Tennessee ruling bad news for New Jersey's gun control bill

Tennessee ruling bad news for New Jersey's gun control bill
AP Photo/Martha Irvine

On Tuesday’s Cam & Company, we learned from ANJRPC executive director Scott Bach that among the many sins in New Jersey’s new gun control bill–and there truly are many sins–is a measure that would prohibit gun ownership in public housing.

Now, it’s unsurprising that anti-gun lawmakers would include such a provision. They don’t view the Second Amendment as an actual right.

Yet they’re also not the first state to look at something like this. Such a law existed in the otherwise pro-gun state of Tennessee.

Existed. Past tense.

On Thursday, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that public housing agencies in the state are prohibited from including provisions in their leases that prevent tenants from having firearms in their homes.

The three-judge panel made the decision unanimously, stating that it violated the Second Amendment, according to the Associated Press. In the ruling, the judges cited a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in June that struck down a New York gun control law.

Judge Frank Clement wrote in the decision that “in light of the Supreme Court’s most recent decision in Bruen and keeping in mind the presumptively unconstitutional status of Columbia Housing’s policy based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, we conclude that a total ban on the ability of law-abiding residents—like Mr. Braden—to possess a handgun within their public housing unit for the purpose of self-defense is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment.”

The case surrounded a lawsuit filed by Kinsley Brandon, who signed a lease agreement in April 2018 with Columbia Housing & Redevelopment Corporation. The lease did not allow Brandon to possess a gun on the premises, AP noted. Thursday’s decision could set up an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which has a Republican majority.

Now, let’s understand that this is a Tennessee state court, not a federal one. There’s no mechanism in place that forces other courts to reach the same conclusion the state appeals court reached.

However, the Tennessee state court didn’t make up the reasoning out of the ether. They simply followed the guidance handed down by the Supreme Court in Bruen.

That is a case that will make an impact in federal court.

While New Jersey may not actually approve of the right to keep and bear arms, they’re not able to exempt themselves from the Constitution. They can’t peel away a right simply because they find it inconvenient.

The Tennessee judge’s reasoning is a prime example of just what a federal court might find in a similar challenge to New Jersey’s proposed rule.

And really, why shouldn’t they?

After all, people shouldn’t be forced to decide between their right to keep and bear arms and taking advantage of public housing. Especially since so many housing projects are in particularly rough neighborhoods. Those who live in public housing often have more need for a lawfully-owned firearm than the rest of us.

Yet New Jersey wants to deny them that.

If you can’t see how that is a problem, there’s no hope for you. Luckily, thanks to Bruen and as illustrated in Tennessee, it doesn’t matter what people’s personal opinions actually are. What matters is the law and the law says public housing residences still have their right to keep and bear arms.