January 18, 2023

Gun Battles in the States

Illinois and New Jersey defy the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent.

The Second Amendment, wrote Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, enshrines “the palladium of the liberties of a republic.” All other rights are protected by the fundamental right to keep and bear arms. The Founders had just fought a war of independence from a tyrannical regime — a war that started with an effort to confiscate guns. Thus, they well understood the necessity of firearms for a free people to remain free from government oppression.

The Second Amendment is really that simple. It’s not about hunting or sport shooting; it’s about Liberty and tyranny.

That’s why it’s so alarming that the president of the United States has made a habit of threatening the American people with F-15s and nuclear weapons, mocking the idea that AR-15s would help anyone against the omnipotent government. Oh, and “deer aren’t wearing Kevlar vests,” he repeatedly jokes. In doing this, argues Second Amendment advocate Charles C.W. Cooke — an Englishman, by the way — Biden “disavows a central premise of our nation’s Founding.”

Which brings us to the efforts of a couple of blue states to trample the Second Amendment.

Last week, we noted that Illinois Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a statewide ban on the sale of so-called “assault weapons,” which includes the AR-15 and AK-47 and even some pistols and shotguns, as well as a ban on “high-capacity” magazines, which limits long guns to 10-round magazines and handguns to 15 rounds. Any owners of such weapons must register their weapons by January 1, 2024, or suddenly become Class 2 felons.

Pritzker now faces some serious blowback. At least 85 of 102 county sheriffs have refused to enforce the new Illinois law given that it clearly violates the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent.

“Part of my duties that I accepted upon being sworn into office was to protect the rights provided to all of us, in the Constitution. One of those rights enumerated is the right of the people to KEEP and BEAR ARMS provided under the 2nd Amendment,” declared Edwards County Sheriff Darby Boewe. “Therefore, as custodian of the jail and chief law enforcement officer for Edwards County, neither myself or my office will be checking to ensure that lawful gun owners register their weapons with the state, nor will we be arresting or housing individuals that have been charged solely with non-compliance of this act.”

Pritzker angrily accused the sheriffs of “political grandstanding at its worst,” which is a classic case of projection. Banning semiautomatic firearms with certain cosmetic features won’t do a darn thing to stop the gang violence running rampant in Chicago. It is at once tyrannical and worthless in terms of the stated objective of saving lives and reducing crime.

Gun-rights groups have launched a legal challenge. That should have consequences far outside Illinois, given that it’s the ninth state to enact an “assault weapons” ban.

Writing for the majority in the 2008 decision District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the Second Amendment clearly protects the citizens’ right to own firearms “in common use at the time.” That by definition ought to include the AR-15, tens of millions of which are owned and used lawfully by the American people.

That inconvenient truth, however, hasn’t stopped these states or rogue judges from willfully ignoring the Supreme Court.

Speaking of judicial activism, New Jersey flouted the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen protecting the word “bear” in the Second Amendment. The Court struck down New York’s “may issue” concealed carry permit regime, under which authorities could deny an application for a permit simply because they didn’t think the applicant showed sufficient cause.

New York gun grabbers responded by making the permit process incredibly onerous and greatly restricting where a concealed firearm may be carried to the point of rendering a carry permit largely useless. New Jersey followed suit.

Federal Judge Renée Marie Bumb issued a temporary stay on Jersey’s law, calling it “so extensive and burdensome” as to essentially nullify a permit. She added, “The court knows of no constitutional right that requires this much guesswork by individuals wanting to exercise such right.”

Indeed, Justice Clarence Thomas has lamented that the Second Amendment is often treated like a “second-class right.” If that is ever to end — if tyrannical gun grabbers are to be put in check — the Supreme Court must weigh in again on the right of the people to keep semiautomatic rifles and standard-capacity magazines, as well as the right to bear arms in a wide range of public settings. Liberty itself is at stake.

Update: As if on bad cue, the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to New York’s onerous law that was passed explicitly to defy the Court’s Bruen decision. The justices’ pass was unexplained but also darn near inexplicable.

Another update: A few days after we published this story, an Illinois state judge temporarily blocked Pritzker’s gun-grabbing law.

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