U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- A coalition of Second Amendment groups has filed a federal lawsuit against Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker over gun control issues during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, ironically just days before the 245th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord that ignited the American Revolution.
This time around, instead of British Regulars marching to confiscate arms and munitions from the Colonial militia, it’s the Baker administration “eliminating all lawful channels of access to constitutionally protected arms and ammunition by mandating the closure of all businesses that sell firearms and ammunition to the consumer public,” the lawsuit says.
“These actions amount to a ban on obtaining modern arms for personal defense in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” the 18-page complaint alleges.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Partnering with the Second Amendment Foundation are the Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC) and Commonwealth Second Amendment, Inc. (Comm2A), along with several retailers and private citizens.
In addition to Baker, two other state officials and four municipal police chiefs are named as defendants in the complaint.
The complaint makes it clear that:
“The Plaintiffs bringing this action do not mean to minimize the severity or urgency of the coronavirus pandemic. The exigencies surrounding this viral pandemic both justify and necessitate changes in the manner in which people live their lives and conduct their daily business. However, this emergency—like any other emergency—has its constitutional limits. It would not justify a prior restraint on speech, nor a suspension of the right to vote. Just the same, it does not justify a ban on obtaining guns and ammunition. The declaratory and injunctive relief that Plaintiffs have been forced to seek in this action is necessary to uphold this bedrock principle of constitutional rights and the rule of law.”
According to Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), which supports the legal action but is not a plaintiff, information acknowledging a Department of Homeland Security recognition of gun shops as “essential” was posted in an initial notice, but within three hours it had disappeared, as reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
In a telephone interview with Ammoland News, Wallace acknowledged this may be the culmination of a longer-running problem with Baker.
“We’ve had virtually no relationship with him,” Wallace said, despite the fact that Baker is a Republican. In Massachusetts, that actually has not worked out so well for gun owners.
“The greatest irony,” Wallace observed, “is that every time we’ve had a bad bill signed, it’s been with a Republican governor.”
When emergency loan funds were made available for businesses in the Commonwealth, Baker specifically excluded gun shops gun shops, along with real estate firms, adult entertainment businesses and multi-level marketing firms. At the time, Wallace issued a statement accusing the governor of discrimination.
Presently, most police agencies are not accepting new applications for firearms licenses, which are required in Massachusetts to even possess empty cartridge cases, Wallace warned.
In a subsequent message to its members, GOAL stated, “As soon as this public health crisis was announced, GOAL began to try to work with the Baker Administration to address issues we knew would be coming. The first piece was to request an emergency order to extend all firearm licenses until the crisis was over. That request had the support of the two police chiefs’ association because it would have freed up their staff during this time. That request was denied even though the state had already done it for a lengthy list of other state-issued licenses. Since then, there has been a clear effort on behalf of the Baker Administration to block access to the Second Amendment.”
The exception to the gun shop shutdown is an order from James Gagnon, commissioner of the state Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, in which he advises gun dealers that supply firearms and ammunition to police agencies were allowed to remain open.
According to the Enterprise News, some gun stores are defying Baker’s order. A shop in Middleboro was still open, and owner John Costa told the newspaper, “The government can go pound tar. We are essential. We have every right to protect our citizens. We have every right to give them what we need to protect themselves.”
Wallace said gun control has not worked in Massachusetts, except to reduce the number of licensed gun owners. In 1998, he recalled, there were 1.5 million gun owners, but a major gun control package pared that number down dramatically, to less than 250,000, he said.
GOAL, which was founded in 1974, has some 16,000 members. Wallace has been with the organization since 2000.
In a prepared statement announcing the lawsuit, Wallace expressed pleasure at being able to work with the other organizations on this legal action, even though GOAL is not involved as a plaintiff.
“Since the beginning of the fight against Covid-19, the Baker Administration has launched a systematic campaign against our Second Amendment civil rights. It is imperative we ensure our civil rights and systems of checks and balances on our government are protected, especially during times of crisis.”–Jim Wallace, GOAL
SAF’s Alan Gottlieb was quick to acknowledge the irony.
“Closing gun stores and preventing citizens from exercising their Second Amendment rights is not the way to fight a viral pandemic,” Gottieb said. “How ironic that rights groups must take the governor of Massachusetts to court over a Second Amendment issue as the 245th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord approaches. Government gun control is precisely the reason our ancestors stood together on April 19, 1775, and the Baker administration should seriously re-think its position.”
“It is disheartening to see one of our original freedom fighter colonies decide to take a page from General Thomas Gage,” Adam Kraut, FPC’s Director of Legal Strategy concurred. “During the Massachusetts ratifying convention, Samuel Adams proposed an amendment guaranteeing that the constitution would not prevent peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms. Yet, the modern day Massachusetts government seeks to do just that. There is no COVID-19 exception in the Constitution, and even this crisis has constitutional limits.”
Brent Carlton with Comm2A echoed their sentiments.
“It’s sad that rather than devoting their full attention to addressing this serious public health emergency, the Baker administration is treating this crisis as an opportunity to set the precedent for suspend constitutional rights that they oppose,” Carlton observed. “The Baker administration can no more block exercise of the Second Amendment by preventing Massachusetts residents from purchasing firearms than the Trump administration can limit the First Amendment by closing the New York Times or CNN.”
“State and local governments cannot suspend the Constitution and its guarantee of fundamental human rights,” FPC President Brandon Combs added. “Massachusetts has again gone out of its way to prevent individuals from exercising their right to keep and bear arms when they want and need to most. But the Second Amendment is not a second-class right. We are proud to fight for the rights of Bay Staters alongside our friends and fellow plaintiffs in this case.”
In recent weeks, SAF and the FPC have been involved in several legal actions, in California, North Carolina, New Jersey, all involving similar complaints about gun store closures amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The battles of Lexington and Concord are widely held to have been the real start of the Revolutionary War, despite the fact they happened more than a year before the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, dated July 4, 1776. There was a brief, but fatal, skirmish between the Lexington militia on the village commons as some 700 troops marched toward Concord to seize what they believed were rebel munitions, including cannons.
After Lexington, troops continued their march to Concord, but by the time they arrived, word of the trouble had spread. By some estimates, at least 2,000 militia members from various communities had converged for what proved to be a confrontation at Concord’s North Bridge.
Following these two battles, some 15,000 militia members surrounded Boston and placed it under siege. Almost two months later, on June 17, the battles of Breeds and Bunker hills were fought.
From then on, it was a shooting war.
Today, the fighting is done in the courts, but the underlying issue appears to have changed very little.
About Dave Workman