- The Washington Times
Friday, March 27, 2020

The National Rifle Association has dubbed New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy “freedom-hating” after he defended keeping his armed guards despite closing gun stores as “nonessential” businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The NRA highlighted a moment from Mr. Murphy’s press conference Wednesday when he was confronted by a man who pointed out that the Democratic governor still enjoys Second Amendment protection while many New Jersey residents no longer can.

Mr. Murphy on Saturday signed an executive order closing all nonessential businesses, including gun stores, and state police closed the online background check portal the same day.

The man told the governor, “The poorest minorities living in the most dangerous cities with the highest crime rates now have absolutely no way of buying a firearm. I lived in Newark and I understand this firsthand. You surround yourself with armed guards, so clearly you understand the benefit of the Second Amendment.

“At this moment, how can a New Jersey resident who isn’t already a gun owner exercise their Second Amendment rights?” he asked.

Mr. Murphy responded by saying he holds a “philosophical disagreement” with people who argue in favor of more guns.

“A safer society, for my taste, has fewer guns and not more guns,” the governor said, adding that also includes keeping the guns that already do exist in the hands of the “right people.”

“Particularly, trained members of law enforcement like the guy to my left who’s got a pistol on his hip,” Mr. Murphy said. “I don’t know if there’s any more color to add beyond that.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful, but it is what it is,” he added. “Crime has been down and let’s hope it stays down.”

Mr. Murphy then offered to call on the man for another question so that he could “get this out of [his] system.”

“Well, it’s not in my system, it’s part of the Constitution,” the man fired back. “People do have the right to defend themselves.”

“I respect the Second Amendment,” the governor interjected.

“I understand that,” the man continued. “You have two armed guards here so clearly you understand it and respect it, but there are people who live in fear every day. We are seeing a lot of people coming forward wanting to buy a gun for self-defense and they don’t have that ability now because of your executive action.

“If less guns reduce crime, why don’t you give up your personal bodyguards and wait for police?” he asked.

Mr. Murphy responded by claiming “not one” person had complained about the order.

“My personal bodyguards is not my decision, it’s his decision and you can deal with him offline,” he said. “I’ve got exactly not one complaint from anybody that they were trying to buy a gun and they couldn’t, other than you, and I respect that, but beyond that I am going to stay with what I’ve said already.”

The NRA shared a clip of the exchange Thursday, accusing Mr. Murphy of laughing in the man’s face and urging supporters to send messages to the “freedom-hating governor” on social media.

Meanwhile, the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, Bob’s Little Sport Shop in Glassboro and Jeffrey Kayden, a Morris County man who wants to buy a gun, have filed a lawsuit against the governor, calling his action against gun sales unconstitutional, the Courier Post reported Friday.

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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