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Gun violence emergencies prompt concerns of government overreach

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(The Center Square) – Across the country, there is a push to declare gun violence as a “public health crisis” and impose a “state of emergency” in response to shootings.

Proponents of the Second Amendment are concerned the emergency declarations lay the groundwork for expanded government powers, as witnessed during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

U.S. Congressmen Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., raised those fears in a recent House Judiciary Committee meeting.

“And our fellow Americans know the impact of folks up here in Washington declaring everything and anything a public health emergency,” Gaetz said during the meeting. “It means you’re more likely to be locked in your homes, deprived of your freedoms, less healthy, less safe, less secure and less able to live a truly American life.

“So know this: when the left talks about this as a public health emergency, get ready to see those enhanced authorities abused by the ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives],” Gaetz said.

In the same hearing, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, D-MO, called for gun violence to be recognized as a public health emergency.

“In St. Louis and nationwide, gun violence is a public health emergency and common sense regulations are a necessity,” Bush said during the hearing.

Cities across the U.S. such as Flint, Michigan, Portland, Oregon, and Blakely, Georgia, have declared gun violence emergencies.

In New York, the cities of Rochester and Albany all declared a gun violence state of emergency. The state of New York declared a gun violence state of emergency in 2021.

Rochester has been under a current gun violence state of emergency since November 2021. That declaration allows the police department to shut down any commercial business that has had a shooting and is determined to be a nuisance after a review process.

The city of Rochester’s press release stated: “The Proclamation gives the Mayor broad powers to protect life and property and to bring the emergency under control.”

The state of New York gun violence emergency order gives the governor the power to “temporarily suspend or modify any statute, local law, ordinance, order, rule or regulation, or parts thereof, during a State disaster emergency if compliance with such would prevent, hinder, or delay action necessary to cope with the disaster emergency.”

The Delaware state legislature passed a resolution in March declaring gun violence a public health crisis.

And what if President Joe Biden declared a national emergency over gun violence? The White House didn’t respond to an email asking if Biden had considered such an option.

When a president declares a national emergency, there are at least 135 statutory powers that could be made available, according to the Brennan Center.

“Debate over the Second Amendment is clouded with propaganda terms intended to diminish the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms,” said Stephen Halbrook, an expert on the Second Amendment and a senior fellow with the Independent Institute. “Instead of criminals committing acts of violence with guns, the term ‘gun violence’ implies that the guns commit the violence. Calling criminality with guns a ‘public health crisis’ obscures that crime is volitional and may be repressed only by taking criminals off the streets. Guns create no national ‘state of emergency,’ and recidivist violators create a state of emergency against every victim they attack.”

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