The unprecedented turmoil over the Coronavirus spread in the United States has spawned some novel reactions from political leaders. In Champaign, IL, Mayor Deborah Feinen (R) has been given the power to ban gun sales. Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla (D) declared that residents would be under curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day, and Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said he might impose the same for the whole state of New Jersey. What about President Donald Trump – will he impose martial law? In a word, no.
State of Fear
Ill-informed by a lifetime diet of misinformation from Hollywood and the Legacy Media, too many people fall for the notion that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution can be abridged in an emergency. Consider this text I was recently forwarded:
“FRIENDS: Just got off the phone with some of my military friends down in DC who just got out of a two-hour briefing. The president will order a two-week mandatory quarantine for the nation. Stock up on whatever you guys need to make sure you have a two-week supply of everything. Please forward to your network.”
Equally as plausible, Trump could order left arms illegal and require us to cut off ours. He could likewise order all firstborn children to be sacrificed to pacify the angry gods of Wuhan. These would have the same legal status – none at all. So, remember that when you hear the latest Coronavirus threat from somebody’s uncle’s brother-in-law, who is best friends with Ivanka’s pedicurist. It’s likely completely fabricated or possibly worse. Without knowing it, the person who sent that message exacerbated the crisis on two fronts – inducing panic about quarantine and encouraging hoarding, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
While Feinen has been granted the power to ban firearm sales from her city council, her actions must still be legal under the Constitution to proceed. It’s scary when our elected leaders act in direct contravention of our rights, but the sad truth is that it happens frequently enough that we have mechanisms to deal with it. In the case of Champaign, we could expect civil rights groups like the Second Amendment Foundation or NRA to sue the town in federal court for relief. They did just that, and successfully so, when New Orleans officials turned tyrant in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and went out seizing the guns of the citizenry.
New Orleans’s Police Superintendent Warren Riley ordered the confiscation of firearms, allegedly under a state emergency powers law. “No one will be able to be armed,” he said. “Guns will be taken. Only law enforcement will be allowed to have guns.” Federal District Judge Jay Zainey had a different opinion on what the Constitution allows, however, and ordered the superintendent to stop. That was followed by a string of defeats for the city as it tried to justify stomping on the Constitution. It culminated in a settlement and consent decree forbidding a recurrence in the future and the return of the seized firearms.
We should keep our heads and maintain a vigilance that ensures our executives — from the mayor’s office to the Oval Office — honor our rights. The courts give relief from executive action odious to our rights all the time, and they should be expected to continue to do so.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.