‘A public health emergency doesn’t suspend or nullify the right to keep and bear arms…’
Baker announced the move last week, saying he would discontinue the issuing of permits through April 30.
He cited the recent high volume of requests due to the pandemic, as well as claiming it was in the interest of ‘social distancing’ efforts and that the county was under-staffed to process the permits within a legally-mandated two-week window.
“With 290 people coming into the permits office per day, the Sheriff’s Office would not be able to meet the 14-day requirement,” he complained last week, noting an existing backlog of more than 700 permit requests.
Three pro-Second-Amendment organizations joined in a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court to force Baker to resume his compliance with state law, according to WSOCTV.
“A public health emergency doesn’t suspend or nullify the right to keep and bear arms,” said Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, in a press release.
“During times of emergency is when a citizen needs the ability to obtain the means of self-defense, and Sheriff Baker’s decision stands directly in the way of that,” Gottlieb said.
The groups noted that Baker’s policy went against both state and federal precedent. The previously won a 2011 state lawsuit, Bateman v. Perdue, challenging a similar attempt to restrict firearms during an emergency.
The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the right for citizens to keep firearms for protection in 2008’s District of Columbia v. Heller.
“Sheriff Baker is implementing by fiat what the Supreme Court struck down in Heller—a ban on a citizen’s right to purchase a handgun for the defense of hearth and home,” said Ed Green, GRNC director of legal affairs. “This action cannot be allowed to stand.”
The pandemic response has raised growing alarm over the curtailment of civil liberties, such as limits on the right to assemble, and expansive government overreach in the recent $2-trillion stimulus package among other things.
Meanwhile, some left-wing areas that have already made a habit of defying state and federal law on matters like immigration enforcement have declared that they will discontinue arrests and prosecution for certain nonviolent crimes, and others have released violent criminals onto the streets to avoid an outbreak in the prison system.
Gottlieb said the crisis and ensuing panic made law-abiding citizens particularly vulnerable and the need for protection that much more paramount.
“Times of emergency is when you need the ability to obtain the means of self-defense the most,” he said. “Suspending that right is not acceptable. That is why this lawsuit is so important.”
The groups said that any concerned citizens could report infringements on their gun-rights via the Firearms Policy Coalition’s coronavirus hotline either online or by calling toll-free to (855) 252-4510.