OPINION: Second Amendment rights deserve protection

By Rep. Wayne Sasser

Rep. Wayne Sasser

Constitutional rights are not conditional. They are not applied differently to Americans depending on their race, gender, religious beliefs and especially not based on their state of residence. For example, while different states may have different rules and regulations in place that govern their elections, the Nineteenth Amendment protects women’s right to vote in every corner of the nation.

The Second Amendment is no different. The fundamental right to keep and bear arms must be protected for all Americans, wherever they live.
Unfortunately, threats to the Second Amendment are on the rise. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham launched one of the latest assaults on Americans’ freedoms by declaring through executive fiat a “public health emergency” in her state due to gun violence. This declaration empowers the New Mexico Department of Health to temporarily prohibit the open or concealed carry of firearms in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

This sets a dangerous precedent — if you don’t like something, simply declare it a public health emergency, and suddenly, you have a free pass to ignore the Constitution. There are reasonable ways that states can and do go about implementing guardrails in the system to keep dangerous criminals away from firearms while ensuring that law-abiding citizens’ rights are not trampled. But these solutions must be kept within the scope of the law and not bend the rules to fit an end goal.

Instead, what we’re seeing in New Mexico is a government overreach that twists the law to implement an agenda.

While a federal judge has already blocked portions of Grisham’s order temporarily, lawmakers cannot sit idly by while threats to the Constitution persist. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) recently stood up against this abuse in sending a letter, along with other Republican senators, to the Department of Justice urging them to intervene to protect the rights of the citizens of New Mexico. He also co-sponsored legislation that would prevent the president and other government officials from using such arbitrary public health orders as a means to implement gun control measures.

The developments out of New Mexico reflect a broader effort in parts of our country to tamper with our Second Amendment rights. In fact, other states have already made similar pushes to crack down on basic freedoms through public health declarations.

For example, recent legislative sessions in Connecticut have seen efforts to declare gun violence a public health emergency. At a federal level, some lawmakers are even calling for a national public health emergency declaration on gun violence through the Department of Health and Human Services.

At all levels, we are seeing more and more attempts to abuse emergency declarations to fast-track a crackdown on our right to bear arms. If the decision by New Mexico’s governor is left unchecked, countless other government officials would feel empowered to follow suit and a threat on the other side of the country would soon be felt closer to home in North Carolina. This is especially pressing if action is taken at the federal level.

Tillis is right to call on other lawmakers and the DOJ to make it clear that these kinds of actions won’t stand. This isn’t only a defense of the Second Amendment. If we pick and choose when and where we stand up for basic rights, the foundations of our democracy will crumble. Our nation’s leaders must rise above politics and see Grisham’s abuse of power for what it is.

The freedoms of all Americans are at stake.

Wayne Sasser represents the 67th District in the North Carolina House of Representatives.