The National Rifle Association is suing New York state for launching what it calls “pointless and arbitrary attack on the constitutional rights of New York citizens” by closing gun stores as part of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s edict to deal with the coronavirus.
On March 20, Cuomo issued an executive order stating that only what he deemed essential businesses could operate.
Gun stores were not on that list, which the NRA’s lawsuit said “effectively and indefinitely suspended a key component of the Second Amendment.”
“This lawsuit redresses a pointless and arbitrary attack on the constitutional rights of New York citizens and residents,” the suit said.
“Defendant Cuomo effectively and indefinitely suspended a key component of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution — shutting down all gun stores in the State of New York, including federally licensed gun stores, by deeming them ‘non-essential’ businesses.”
On March 28, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued its own guidance delineating which workers were essential and which were not.
“Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges” were deemed essential, according to the document.
The federal guidance resulted in some areas, such as New Jersey and Los Angeles County in California, which had originally ordered gun stores shuttered, to allow them to open back up.
That has not happened in New York state, prompting the lawsuit.
“There isn’t a single person who has ever used a gun for self-defense who would consider it nonessential,” Wayne LaPierre, CEO & executive vice president of the NRA, said in a statement on the NRA’s website.
“This is clearly another assault by Gov. Cuomo on the NRA, on the rights of New Yorkers to defend themselves and their families, and on our Second Amendment freedoms. The NRA will continue to fight all such attacks until Gov. Cuomo recognizes that constitutional rights are for every New Yorker and every American — and not just for politicians and their privileged friends.”
The lawsuit argued that “Citizens of New York (with few exceptions) can only purchase firearms through a regulatory patchwork entailing federally-licensed dealers and background checks. By closing federally licensed dealers, Defendants have cut off the only way of legally purchasing firearms in the State. As a result of the government’s overreach, most New Yorkers have no legal way to exercise the constitutional right to purchase arms or ammunition.”
“The United States Supreme Court recognizes that the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental and belongs to the individual, not the government. Moreover, a core purpose of that right is self defense,” it added.
“The current public health emergency does not justify impeding the exercise of Second Amendment rights, especially during a time when many New Yorkers have valid concerns about the ability of the government to maintain order — and criminals are being prematurely released from jails,” the lawsuit said, noting the federal guidance issued March 28 by the DHS.
The lawsuit said there is a clear and present public safety danger to New Yorkers in the current crisis.
“Many New York citizens and residents desiring to purchase firearms and ammunition have experienced empty shelves, long lines and tense atmospheres while shopping for other essential goods,” the lawsuit said.
“They have read about the release of thousands of prisoners by state officials, and they are concerned about the ability of police forces to maintain order when officers fear contact with COVID-19 or have fallen ill themselves.
“The desire of these New Yorkers to purchase firearms and ammunition to protect themselves and their families is rational and well-founded. More importantly, Defendants do not have the right to substitute their own judgment for that of individuals who might want to purchase firearms and ammunition, or to declare that the Second Amendment does not apply until further notice.”
New York State Attorney General Letitia James indicated the state has no intention of allowing gun stores to reopen.
Everyone, including the NRA, must follow the law and all executive orders of New York.
We will aggressively defend the state against yet another legal assault by the NRA.https://t.co/xjFaHikr65
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) April 2, 2020
But the lawsuit indicated that shuttering gun stores goes beyond what is necessary to deal with the virus.
“Defendants’ closure of firearms retailers is a cynical and pretextual attack on the Second Amendment rights of the people of New York,” the lawsuit said, noting that Cuomo has considered as essential “sales of goods such as liquor, pizza, coffee, donuts, and luxury condominiums.”
“History reminds us that incursions upon constitutional liberties which are rationalized in the midst of an emergency frequently linger longer, and do more harm, than the emergency itself,” the suit said.
“Reasonable steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus do not include the suspension of the Second Amendment.
“Plaintiff asks the Court to declare that the Second Amendment right to bear arms requires that citizens and residents of New York be afforded reasonable access to purchase firearms and ammunition, and to prohibit Defendants from needlessly forcing gun stores to remain closed.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.