U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- Two billionaire-backed gun prohibition lobbying groups—Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and the Seattle-based Alliance for Gun Responsibility—have launched an all-out effort to convince state officials across the country to close gun shops during the COVID-19 pandemic panic.
Everytown has even turned loose its legal staff to write a four-page memorandum titled “The Constitutionality of Including Gun Stores in Business Closure Orders,” for circulation to public officials.
But leaders in the firearms community are contending this is a clear sign that the gun prohibition movement has lost the fight. Indeed, some believe anti-gunners are terrified because so many people have rushed to gun stores over the past month, and now the Trump administration has defined gun store employees as part of the “essential” workforce.
While the CISA memorandum is advisory in nature, it sent a clear signal to the states now wrestling with shut-down orders.
In an exclusive telephone interview with Ammoland, Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, had this observation:
“The reason the gun control community is freaking out is because they know they have lost a generation of fence sitters.”
Keane said millions of new, would-be gun buyers “across the country” have learned in recent weeks how gun control laws prevent honest citizens from exercising their rights in an emergency. First-time buyers have discovered waiting periods that may last for days, or even months as in the case of states such as New York or New Jersey. They wonder why, he observed, they can’t buy a gun and take it home the same day.
In states with so-called “universal background checks,” people can’t even borrow a firearm without going to a dealer for the required check, and that’s not possible when emergency orders shut down gun stores, Keane noted.
Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), concurs with Keane. His organization has been on the proverbial “spear point” of litigation for several days, challenging “shelter-in-place” orders. Coupled with the influence of the Trump administration’s CISA memorandum, governors in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and other states are now allowing gun stores to remain open.
“We’ve been winning,” Gottlieb said, “which means they’re losing. People rushed to gun stores, many for the first time. Everytown wants to stop that by shutting those shops down. Closing gun stores won’t cure the Coronavirus, and they know it. But if Everytown can convince people it’s okay to suspend the Second Amendment during one emergency, they’ll try to erase it entirely the next time we face a crisis.”
Keane reinforced that argument: “If they take a right away during an emergency, they can take it away anytime they please.”
Still, Everytown and the Alliance are flooding email inboxes with emotion-laden rhetoric such as this from Everytown:
“Over the weekend, the Trump Administration added the firearms industry to the federal list of critical businesses that are still allowed to operate. This change treats gun store and shooting range workers like the doctors, nurses, and grocery store employees that are risking their lives to get us through this pandemic.”
Not mentioned are state-level “shelter-in-place” directives, such as the one issued in Washington State by Gov. Jay Inslee, that recognizes “Workers supporting cannabis retail and dietary supplement retail.”
It is apparently alright to sell marijuana in the Evergreen State, but not engage in firearms sales; a scenario that has many Washington grassroots activists shaking their heads in disbelief.
Still, in Washington state, some gun stores are keeping their doors open and enjoying what one retailer called “brisk business.” The situation, as detailed in a Seattle Times report, is in somewhat of a stand-off. Gun dealers such as Wade's Eastside Guns in Bellevue, posted this sign on its door: “Your right to the protection of yourself, your family and others is an essential need and a constitutional right!”
Washington State authorities have not moved to close gun stores, perhaps because SAF is waiting to pounce with a federal lawsuit, and they know it. Gottlieb told the Seattle Times the documents are prepared, plaintiffs are all lined up and all he's apparently waiting for is for the state to order a shutdown.
The Everytown Law memorandum stretches four pages. Right up front, the memo declares, “The gun lobby claims that including gun stores in these closure orders impermissibly treats the Second Amendment as a ‘second-class right.’ But the truth is just the opposite. What the NRA and other gun groups are seeking instead is for Second Amendment rights to become super-rights, receiving a level of protection no other constitutional right enjoys.
“…(T)he central legal claim in these legal challenges—that the Second Amendment requires that gun stores be singled out for special treatment and be allowed to remain open even in the face of the most severe public-health crisis this country has faced in over 100 years—is legally flawed and should be rejected by the courts.”
Gottlieb, in his Wednesday morning statement, fired back.
“Well I have news for them,” he said. “The Second Amendment is a super right. That’s why it’s in our Bill of Rights. It protects all of our other rights.
“The only thing flawed here is Everytown’s memo,” he continued. “Constitutional rights are not subject to a public health crisis. Our rights are enshrined in the Constitution to protect them from just this sort of political treachery disguised as legal research. This memo is totally biased and one-sided, and is further proof that they know we are winning this battle.”
There is no small amount of irony in the current anti-gun campaign. The Everytown email message asserts, “During the COVID-19 crisis, the NRA has been engaged in reckless fear-mongering.”
One day later, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility message declares, “We know that more guns means more gun violence. We also know that the presence of a gun in the home increases the chance of death by suicide, domestic violence, and unintentional shootings. Those risks are only exacerbated among first-time buyers with little or no training and experience.”
Who is actually doing the “fear mongering,” grassroots activists who received both messages are wondering.
Keane told Ammoland that “legal minds” are looking over the Everytown Law memo carefully, and they will have a response.
“We intend to rebut it,” he assured, “because, as you know, a right delayed is a right denied. There is clearly a constitutional right for law abiding citizens to acquire firearms for self-protection, and that means there is clearly a right to sell those firearms. While commerce in firearms can be regulated, it cannot be denied, even at a time of emergency.”
“This is the time when (the Second Amendment) is most needed,” Keane said. “This is the time we have to defend the right vigorously.”
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