In a move that could have national implications as various state governors issue emergency orders relating to COVID-19 Coronavirus shutdowns, the Second Amendment Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit against New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy and State Police Supt. Patrick J. Callahan, alleging deprivation of rights under color of law for ordering the closure of firearms stores, and shutting off the state background check mechanism.
This comes as RT.com has published an opinion piece by constitutional lawyer Robert Barnes that asserts the government can use the Covid-19 panic “to take away our fundamental rights.”
According to a SAF news release, Murphy and Callahan are being sued in their official capacities. Joining SAF in this action is the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, on behalf of Robert Kashinsky and Legend Firearms, a gun shop in the state. They are represented by noted civil rights attorney David Jensen.
Kashinsky is a private citizen who, according to the lawsuit documents obtained by Liberty Park Press, was attempting to purchase a firearm for the first time, due to concerns about protecting his home during the coronavirus scare.
But over the weekend, he and the operators of the gun store learned the State Police had stopped doing background checks by making the online portal “unavailable.”
“Since Executive Order 107 took effect, and since the Division of State Police made the background check portal unavailable,” the 9-page lawsuit alleges, “individuals have contacted Legend Firearms and expressed their desire to purchase firearms and ammunition for the purpose of personal protection. Legend Firearms has advised these people that it is no longer possible to conduct business or sell (or purchase) firearms or ammunition in New Jersey.
“Gov. Murphy cannot simply suspend the Second Amendment, and neither can Supt. Callahan,” said SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “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,” Gottlieb observed, “but they’re the last state to recognize it.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The case is known as Kashinsky v. Murphy.
While this is the first known case in which an emergency order is challenged under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, there could be other situations.
Writing at RT.com, attorney Barnes asserts, “Governments across America already used the pandemic, and the media-stoked panic around the pandemic particularly, to limit, restrict or remove First Amendment freedoms of speech and free association, with officials complaining about the potential restraints the freedom of religion imposed upon them. Others denied or declared the right to deny Second Amendment rights of gun purchase for personal safety (at a time governments are issuing no-arrest and no-detention orders for a wide range of crimes in their community while publicly freeing inmates from jails and prisons).”
He runs through a litany of rights violations including the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh amendments.
Only in the case of Illinois, so far, has a governor noted in an emergency order that specifically identifies “firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security” as being among “essential businesses.”