U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- As local and state governments continue their massive “shelter-in-place” restrictions, California is becoming a constitutional rights battleground, pitting Second Amendment groups and individual activists against what they believe are unconstitutional over-reaches that deny people their right to keep and bear arms.
In the process, according to the latest lawsuit filed by 17 plaintiffs against 16 local governments and individuals in Northern California, and in the newest federal court action, they accuse the defendants of using “a public health crisis as political cover to impose bans and restrictions on rights they do not like.”
Among the plaintiffs in this new legal action are the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition and National Rifle Association. All three groups have been busy in the final days of March, taking legal action in some states and backing down politicians, including governors, who tried to close gun stores as “non-essential businesses.”
That justification for shutting down gun stores vanished, however, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a memorandum with suggested guidelines on “essential workforce” operations that includes “Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges.”
While the CISA list is “advisory in nature,” according to the memorandum, its announcement over the weekend came as a morale booster for beleaguered gun owners and gun shop operators.
“The importance of this Second Amendment case (in California) is highlighted by the huge number of plaintiffs and defendants,” SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb.
The significance of the CISA guideline—which is not binding on the states—hasn’t been lost on the gun prohibition lobby.
Everytown for Gun Safety sent an email blast Monday attacking the Trump administration for determining “gun dealers and manufacturers as essential as police, first responders, hospital workers, and other workers who are risking everything to save lives during this pandemic,” calling it “a new low” for “the NRA and its allies.” This unnamed allies include several individual rights organizations and private citizens. It’s part of an ongoing effort that appears designed to demonize the NRA in particular and marginalize those unidentified “allies.” Everytown’s Rob Wilcox, deputy director of Policy and Strategy, described the Trump administration’s policy guideline as “shameful.”
In a follow-up message Tuesday, Everytown Director of Federal Affairs Sarah Trumble asserted—again singling out the NRA—that, “The NRA is using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to pursue their guns everywhere agenda and boost gun sales.”
But to the plaintiffs in California and Second Amendment grassroots activists everywhere, that’s precisely what anti-gun politicians are doing in an effort to close gun shops.
Defendants in the new lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California are Alameda County, Sheriff Gregory Ahern and County Health Officer Erica Pan; Contra Costa County, County Sheriff David Livingstone and County Health Officer Chris Farnitano; Santa Clara County, County Sheriff Laurie Smith, District attorney Jeffrey Rosen and County Health officer Sara Cody; and San Mateo County, Sheriff Carlos Bolanos and County Health Officer Scott Morrow; plus the City of Pacifica and Police Chief Dan Steidle, the City of San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo and Police Chief Edgardo Garcia; the City of Mountain View and Police Chief Max Bosel; and the City of Pleasant Hill and its Police Chief Bryan Hill (all individuals in their official capacities).
In addition to SAF, FPC and NRA, plaintiffs in this new action are listed as the California Gun Rights Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, Inc., three private businesses and seven private citizens. They are represented by California attorneys George M. Lee of San Francisco, and John W. Dillon of Carlsbad, and Adam Kraut of Sacramento.
This lawsuit comes on the heels of a new court filing in a separate case, Brandy, et al. v. Villanueva, et al, seeking a temporary restraining order and an order to show cause. This case is challenging California authorities who have ordered a shutdown of retail gun shops. California law requires background checks done by licensed dealers for every firearm transfer in the state. It is impossible for Californians in the four named counties and four cities to legally purchase, sell or even loan firearms because no background checks are presently available in those jurisdictions.
The situation in California seems ripe for these new pandemic-related lawsuits. SAF’s Gottlieb said in a prepared statement, “California officials seem blind and deaf to the new CISA guidelines, and the fact that law-abiding citizens want to exercise their Second Amendment rights during this time of crisis. We’re asking the courts to fix their eyesight and improve their hearing.”
Meanwhile, a judge in North Carolina has ordered Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker to resume acceptance of applications for pistol purchase permits despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The order may be read here.
Judge A. Graham Shirley’s order, issued Tuesday, says the sheriff’s office “will modify the application process so as to minimize or alleviate the admission of applicants for said permits to the Public Safety Center” while the emergency continues, “and to resume processing applications in as timely a fashion as possible under the current conditions.”
In a telephone conversation, Gottlieb told Ammoland News that the final ten days of March had been “just crazy.”
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