A lawsuit has been filed by gun owners and gun shops against the governor of New Jersey claiming that, by shutting down retail establishments that sell firearms due to the coronavirus, he is banning those in New Jersey from obtaining guns and ammunition.
The plaintiffs say that Governor Philip D. Murphy and State Director of Emergency Management Patrick J. Callahan have also shut down the website portal for gun background checks, making it impossible to sell guns in New Jersey.
The gun rights lawsuit maintains that the plaintiffs are not minimizing the severity and urgency of the coronavirus pandemic. However, they plead that this emergency has constitutional limits. The emergency measures put in place by the State of New Jersey should not justify a ban on obtaining guns and ammunition, state the plaintiffs.
On March 21, New Jersey Governor issued Executive Order 107 which ordered that “brick and mortar premises of all non-essential retail businesses must close to the public as long as this Order remains in effect.” The Executive Order did not list firearms dealers as an essential business, which meant that all gun dealer establishments had to close, according to the lawsuit.
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The plaintiffs claim that shortly after the Executive Order was put into place by the Governor, the New Jersey State Police put up a notice on the background check portal of its website stating that the state police would no longer conduct background checks.
The gun rights lawsuit filed against the defendants notes that it is currently illegal to purchase a firearm in New Jersey unless the individual holds a Firearms Purchaser Identification Card (FPID).
In order to obtain a FPID, an individual must provide fingerprints and pass a background check, the plaintiffs allege. Either the New Jersey state police can perform the background checks or the National Instant Check System is another option for gun retailers, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs say that the state cannot issue a gun to anyone who has been committed of a crime, who is in a mental institution, anyone who is subject to a restraining order, or to those who are under 18 years of age.
In addition, it is also illegal to purchase a gun in New Jersey unless it is through a licensed retail dealer of firearms, the lawsuit alleges. A licensed firearm retailer is reportedly required to complete a background check before selling a gun to anyone.
One plaintiff in this case, Robert Kashinsky, claims that he does not own any guns, but he recently obtained an FPID.
Kashinsky states that when the coronavirus hit the United States, he became concerned about his ability to defend himself and his family, so he decided to purchase a firearm.
Kashinsky claims that, on March 21, he visited a firearms dealer in New Jersey in order to purchase two guns.
He says that he decided that he would return to the store on March 24 to purchase one of the guns that he was looking at.
Kashinsky claims that because of the Executive Order, he is no longer able to purchase the firearms he was interested in.
Another plaintiff in this lawsuit, Legend Firearms, is a gun dealer licensed by the state of New Jersey and the federal government. After hearing about the coronavirus pandemic, Legend Firearms notes that they started to follow guidelines promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as the state of New Jersey. Now, despite doing their part to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Legend Firearms is no longer open to the public, argues the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs claim that, since the Executive Order, Legend Firearms has been contacted by numerous individuals expressing their desire to purchase guns, but the retailer had to inform them that they are no longer able to conduct business in New Jersey.
“Furthermore, now that the Division of State Police has made the background check portal unavailable, there is no means for Legend Firearms to complete a firearms transaction in the course of a private (non-public) appointment,” claim the plaintiffs.
If it wasn’t for the Executive Order shutting down the business, Legend Firearms would be able to continue to conduct business and would be able to meet the demands of any individuals who contact the company, the plaintiffs allege.
The gun rights lawsuit states that while state and local governments have the power to regulate the bearing of arms, they do not have the power to prohibit the keeping and bearing of arms, and they do not have the power to stop the channels from which individuals can purchase firearms.
The plaintiffs are represented by David D. Jensen of D. Jensen & Associates.
The New Jersey Firearms Lawsuit is Kashinsky, et al. v. Murphy, et al., Case No. 3:20-cv-03127, in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
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