Buying hooch or toys for tots is fundamental, but the right to keep and bear arms – disposable. That’s what New Jersey is telling its people. Now the federal courts will weigh in. The Second Amendment Foundation just sued N.J. in federal court, demanding the state stop violating the civil rights of the people, and let the gun shops open.
The filing in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey asserts claims of violation of civil rights under color of law by shutting down all gun shops in the state, thereby preventing citizens from exercising their rights under the Second and Fourteenth amendments. The suit names N.J. Governor Philip D. Murphy and his State Police Superintendent Patrick J. Callahan as defendants. Murphy signed an executive order March 21, which read:
All New Jersey residents shall remain home or at their place of residence unless they are 1) obtaining goods or services from essential retail businesses…
Wouldn’t you know it, gun stores are not essential to the citizens of New Jersey. Which industries are? Toy stores, liquor stores, and dry cleaners. They may have a point about the liquor, but the Second Amendment is supposed to protect the fundamental rights of all Americans, even those unfortunate souls who wish to keep and bear arms in New Jersey. Gun stores are not fundamental, but “[s]tores that principally sell supplies for children under five years old” are. Will that be a tough argument for the state to make before the courts? We shall see.
It’s worth noting that all this comes at a time when security is not a government priority. There are states of emergencies in place from mayors’ offices to the Oval Office, and police services are on the chopping block. Headlines like “Philly police will delay arrests for a range of crimes, including theft…” might lead a prudent person to look after themselves, including their personal security, with a firearm.
Alan M. Gottlieb, who founded the Second Amendment Foundation, said, “[i]n order for New Jersey residents to purchase firearms, they must go through a licensed firearms retailer and pass a background check. However, Murphy’s order was subsequently followed by a notice posted on the State Police website that the agency is no longer conducting background checks.” The state has conditioned the exercise of a fundamental right upon a state apparatus functioning. Then it claims its own refusal to perform the function is sufficient cause to shut down the exercise of the right. It would be one thing if the task were impossible, or so burdensome as to cost lives. Neither seems to be the case here. Mr. Gottlieb said:
“Governor Murphy cannot simply suspend the Second Amendment, and neither can Superintendent Callahan, yet, under this emergency order, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The Constitution, and federal law, don’t allow that. New Jersey may have been the first state to ratify the Bill of Rights, but they’re the last state to recognize it.”
The Supreme Court has been quite reticent to grant the full spectrum of protections to 2A that other fundamental rights have. Justice Thomas himself wrote, “[d]espite the clarity with which we described the Second Amendment’s core protection for the right of self-defense, lower courts … have failed to protect it.” We’ll have to wait a little while to see how this lower court treats the right. The state’s lesson for us all is to acquire a gun when you can because when you finally decide you need one, you might not have the option.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.