With the COVID-19 pandemic and cities being burned in the name of justice, no one denies this is a time of immense strain on our American social fabric. The term “crisis” is bandied about as if the nation were on the brink of a disaster from which it might never recover.
I believe these are temporary, if recurring, issues. They have deep but not disastrous meaning. They must be addressed resolutely, immediately and thoughtfully.
For Gun Owners
The potential calamity for gun owners and concealed carry advocates came in a Supreme Court ruling in late May which, on its face, had nothing to do with guns.
Some months ago, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) closed all places of worship and other gatherings when health authorities forecast that the coronavirus would be a devastating plague. Despite plentiful evidence that the disease would not depopulate the planet, Newsom (and other governors) refused to lift restrictions on places of worship. The South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista sued, claiming the governor ignored the special status of religion in our constitutional structure.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
You could argue — and the state of California did — that it was not Congress, per se, and that its regulation was not a “law.” It was, in fact, temporary and in response to a national health crisis.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sided with the state, allowing its restrictions. The New York Times and other national media reported that Chief Justice John Roberts joined “the court’s four-member liberal wing” (Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayer). Such interpretation makes this decision a highly political and even subversive action.
In his convoluted argument (admittedly out of context because of length), Roberts wrote that California’s “restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.”
“Similar or more severe restrictions,” he continued, “apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time.”
What Comes Next?
Of course, the Constitution says nothing about “comparable secular gatherings.” Or does it? Remember that “right of the people peaceably to assemble” in the First Amendment?
The issue for us is the Second Amendment and the ability of politicians and the Supreme Court to dismiss our right to “bear arms” upon the appearance of any national complication. The Second Amendment is similar in intent to the First. You probably know it by heart: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
People have argued that COVID-19 is an international health emergency that has been compared to the Black Plague, which may have depopulated the earth by half. But the plague came and went many times over the course of 2,000 years, along with other terrible “pandemics” — smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, influenza and HIV.
They may have been ignorant of their causes, but the Founding Fathers knew about pandemics. They were educated men who did not write an exclusion into the Constitution for government to halt your right to worship. If it can do so, what will stop governors from issuing draconian gun confiscations for “public safety” in a time of “national emergency?” And what’s stopping the Supreme Court from declaring those actions “consistent with the keep and bear clause of the Second Amendment?”
About Rick Sapp
Rick Sapp earned his Ph.D. in social anthropology after his time in the U.S. Army working for the 66th Military Intelligence Group, USAREUR, during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Following his time in Paris, France, he worked for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before turning to journalism and freelance writing. Along with being published in several newspapers and magazines, Rick has authored more than 50 books for a variety of publishers.