Any lawyers out there? Constitutional scholars? Law school professors?
Here’s a question for you: Does it violate the Constitution to shutter gun stores and firearms manufacturers during a global pandemic?
Attorneys for Everytown Law, the litigation arm of Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, argued in a memorandum this week that closing down FFLs during the COVID-19 crisis does not violate one’s right to keep and bear arms.
“The Second Amendment does not require that gun stores be singled out for special treatment and allowed to remain open during the most significant public health crisis of the last 100 years,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law.
“As broad laws that apply to thousands of businesses, these closure orders are clearly designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, not undermine anyone’s Second Amendment rights,” he continued. “The courts have made clear that broad, generally-applicable laws like these are constitutional.”
The memorandum was published in the wake of the Trump administration’s recent decision to add the gun industry to the list of “critical infrastructure,” an overt suggestion that these are “essential” businesses and should remain open for business.
While that federal guideline is non-binding, meaning the states don’t necessarily have to adhere to it, at least one state, New Jersey, has taken note and reversed its initial decree that FFLs are “non-essential.”
“In accordance with the guidance released over the weekend by the federal Department of Homeland Security, we will allow firearms sellers to operate,” said NJ Gov. Phil Murphy during a Monday press conference.
“It wouldn’t have been my definition, but that’s the definition at the federal level. I didn’t get a vote on that,” he added.
Pro-gun groups, like the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), are actively suing states and local governments that are forcing gun shops to close. Fundamentally, SAF argues that these emergency closure orders violate one’s 2A rights.
But according to Everytown Law’s analysis, that argument doesn’t hold water because, emergency closure orders:
- Affect thousands of businesses and are aimed at minimizing person-to-person contact and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
- Do not specifically target guns or gun stores, just as they do not specifically target bookstores, political rallies, houses of worship or other locations that are being ordered closed notwithstanding their connection to constitutional rights.
- Are examples of the sorts of generally-applicable rules that courts have held do not violate a constitutional right despite placing burdens on that right.
Mark Oliva, the Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the firearms industry trade association, indicated in an email to GunsAmerica that this legal memorandum is really just a sign that the anti-gun lobby is becoming desperate.
“The recent protests by groups like Michael Bloomberg’s-funded Everytown and Moms Demand is testament to their realization that they know they are losing the argument,” said Oliva.
“Their arguments on the ability to close firearm retailers by executive order is nonsensical. They know this. If there was a chance any of these arguments could have possibly survived legal challenge, the governors of New Jersey and Pennsylvania would have appeared before a federal judge to argue these points. They chose not to. It can only be surmised that they knew they would lose,” he continued.
Oliva went on to say that the “true intentions” of Everytown are to use the current crisis to “deny Americans of their God-given rights” because the last thing it wants is a surge in the number of responsibly armed Americans. That’ll make enacting gun control in the future that much harder.
Well, what say you? Is it unconstitutional for the government to shutter gun stores during a global pandemic?