Hurricane Florence is bearing down on the Carolinas. It’s enough of a threat that the NRA chose to cancel their annual Carry Guard Expo scheduled for this weekend in Richmond, Virginia.
In the mean time, the town of Leland, North Carolina, a suburb of Wilmington, right on the coast, figured a good way to prepare for the storm’s landfall would be to use emergency powers to suspend gun sales and Second Amendment rights for the town’s citizens (outside of their homes). Because the Katrina experience was such an unqualified success.
In response, the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Firearms Policy Foundation issued a “pre-litigation demand letter” to the city fathers and mothers of Leland, explaining the unconstitutionality of their diktat.
WILMINGTON, NC & SACRAMENTO, CA (September 11, 2018) — Today, Firearms Policy Coalition and Firearms Policy Foundation announced a pre-litigation demand letter sent today to the Town of Leland, North Carolina, regarding the municipality’s order banning some lawful and constitutionally protected firearm-related conduct in advance of Hurricane Florence. Yesterday, the Town issued an order stating that, “Effective at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, the transportation or possession, or the sale or purchase of any dangerous weapon or substance, while off one’s own premises, is prohibited.”
CNN reported today that Jeff Byard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency associate administrator, said Tuesday morning that “it is going to be … a long-term recovery. This is not going to be a storm that we recover from in days.” The “monster” hurricane is expected to make landfall in North Carolina this week, and some are expecting “massive damage.”
“As our demand letter explains, disasters and potential disasters are prima facia reasons to protect the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for all lawful purposes, including self-defense and hunting,” said FPC President and FPF Chairman Brandon Combs. “They are not political opportunities to restrict these crucial constitutional rights.”
The civil rights groups say that the order is unconstitutional. In addition to expressing concerns about the order’s impact on Second Amendment rights, the demand letter characterized the Town’s order as “unconstitutionally vague,” saying that it “sets the stage for arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement since those enforcing the prohibition could apply various and conflicting interpretations.”
“The Town’s prohibition could well increase vulnerability to damage, injury, or loss of life or property, by chilling the otherwise lawful use and possession of firearms and ammunition in the protection of oneself or one’s property during these times – rights expressly preserved under the state law in the event of such states of emergency,” the demand letter argues.
“Leland’s State of Emergency Notice should immediately be amended to strike the offending language creating this unlawful and unconstitutional weapons prohibition. Should the Town fail to do so, and/or attempt to enforce the same against any resident, it stands exposed to civil actions for declaratory and injunctive relief, and monetary damages,” said attorney Raymond DiGuiseppe on behalf of the groups.
If any person is subjected to the Town of Leland’s order, they can submit a report to the FPF/FPC Legal Action Hotline at www.firearmpolicy.org/hotline or by calling (855) 252-4510. They can also contact FPC and FPF’s Wilmington, North Carolina-based counsel, The DiGuiseppe Law Firm, P.C., by phone at (910) 713-8804.
The good news: today the town of Leland updated their emergency order to specifically exclude lawfully-possessed firearms.
RESTRICTIONS ON POSSESSION, TRANSPORTATION, AND TRANSFER OF DANGEROUS WEAPONS AND SUBSTANCES
Effective at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, the transportation or possession, or the sale or purchase of dangerous weapons or substances, while off one’s own premises, is prohibited. This prohibition and restriction does not apply to lawfully possessed firearms or ammunition.
The updated order, however, still doesn’t appear to allow for gun sales after tomorrow night.
As the FPC notes in their press release, emergency situations like natural disasters are exactly the kinds of situations when citizens need the option of armed self-defense the most to defend life and property.
Police and other first responders will have their hands more than full dealing with rescues and the aftermath of the storm. That’s the perfect time for looters and other opportunists to take advantage of a chaotic situation. And precisely the wrong time for states and municipalities to use emergency powers to restrict citizens’ constitutional rights. Any of them.