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Disabled gun owners should not be disarmed

Physical disability mustn’t nullify the right to keep and bear arms

Americans who wish to keep and bear arms have an inalienable right to do so regardless of their standing in life.

There is a concerted effort by the government, particularly state governments, to disarm disabled Americans who wish to defend themselves with firearms. Why? Government bureaucrats believe disabled individuals are incapable of being self-sufficient without government assistance. To further complicate matters, housing complexes receiving government aid in the form of Section 8 housing believe firearms pose a safety risk to their tenants.

The most recent target of this dangerous disarmament ploy is Harvey Lembo of Rockland, Maine, who is facing eviction from his apartment for merely owning a firearm.

Mr. Lembo, 67, is a retired police officer and lobsterman who is bound to a wheelchair. He currently lives in Section 8 housing due to his disability. He has been burglarized six times in the last six years. Despite this, Mr. Lembo desires to live normally and protect himself out of fear of being burglarized again.

On the evening of Aug. 31, 2015, Mr. Lembo’s residence was broken into by a 45-year-old intruder looking to steal his prescription painkillers. After Mr. Lembo shot the intruder, police apprehended him and found he had been sentenced for a felony domestic violence conviction. The morning before the incident, Mr. Lembo purchased a handgun. Had he not done so, he could have been seriously harmed or worse — killed. Although not charged with any crime for shooting the intruder in self-defense, Mr. Lembo faces homelessness if his landlord, Stanford Management LLC of Portland, gets its way. He is countersuing them on the grounds that forcing him to surrender his handgun violates his Second Amendment right to own one.

As a result of Mr. Lembo’s ordeal, lawmakers in Maine introduced a bill on Feb. 24 to protect gun owners like him who risk eviction from government housing if they own firearms. Lawmakers in Maine believe this bill would discourage private landlords from accepting government funding for housing if they impose restrictions on their tenants’ ability to use, possess or transport firearms and ammunition. Critics of this proposed legislation fear this bill, if passed, would trump private property rights and, therefore, strip private housing projects of subsidies they currently receive. However, if housing projects receive government subsidies, they are not at liberty to forbid firearms under current Maine law.

There is legal precedent allowing for Mr. Lembo to exercise his constitutional right to keep and bear arms in Section 8 housing. Article 1, Section 16 of Maine’s Constitution reads, “Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.” Moreover, the Maine Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that Portland Housing Authority’s lease provision prohibiting residents from having firearms on-site violates the state’s firearm preemption law, which prevents political subdivisions in Maine from creating their own firearm restrictions.

Nationally, three cases were decided in favor of the gun rights of tenants residing in housing projects: a case involving Oakwood Senior Apartments near Denver, Jane Doe and Charles Boone v. Wilmington Housing Authority in Delaware, and Guy Montag Doe v. San Francisco Housing Authority.

The first case ruled in 2013 that the Oakwood Senior Apartments could not forbid guns on their property. Residents were so outraged by the proposed ban that the Douglas County Housing Partnership immediately canceled it. Had it gone into effect, residents had until Oct. 1 of that year to relinquish their firearms or move out. In the second case, the Delaware Supreme Court unanimously ruled in 2014 that Wilmington Housing Authority could not deny residents their Second Amendment rights. The court ruled it was unconstitutional per Article 1, Section 20 of Delaware’s Constitution, which reads: “A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use.” The third case decided in 2009 said the San Francisco Housing Authority could not forbid residents from owning legal firearms.

Disabled or not, all law-abiding citizens should be able to exercise their right to self-protection as a means to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Individuals such as Harvey Lembo desire to be productive members of society despite their current standing in life. Why should his already-troubled life be further complicated by this very act of disarmament? If someone has a handicap but is mentally fit and properly trained to handle firearms, he should be afforded the right to own and possess firearms like the rest of us.


 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at the Washington Times and we here at Bullets First are very proud of Gabby for growing into a larger and more powerful voice for gun rights and Conservative values.

More of Gabriella’s articles ranging far beyond the 2nd Amendment can be seen at her home site: thegabriellahoffman.com 

 

  • 0hiojoe

    That is seriously messed up that this man is expected to sit back and be a victim, rather than to be able to defend himself!

  • MarkPA

    This should be an open-and-shut case, but for “. . . police apprehended him and found he had been sentenced for a felony domestic violence conviction.” What is interesting about this case is this fact plus the fact that this defendant is disabled.
    It is established that “the people” have a right to keep a handgun in the home for self-defense. It is also established that an individual convicted of a felony can be deprived of his 2A right. Now, consider these two in conjunction with one-another. Can a disabled individual, albeit a felon, be deprived of his right to keep a handgun in his home for self-defense if he has no domestic partners? Just exactly how would the judiciary explain this constraint on an enumerated right? Could this individual be deprived of his right to vote? To speech? Exercise of religion? To quarter troops? Search and seizure? Cruel and unusual punishment? Could this infringement be justified because he might shoot a guest?

    • DavidMacko

      I believe that felons who have “paid their debt to society” deserve to have all their rights restored, including the basic right to keep and bear arms. Otherwise, they should have been convicted of a crime which requires life imprisonment.

      • MarkPA

        Your argument is, I think, best stated as: ‘If you can’t be trusted with a gun you can’t be trusted in public without a chaperone.’ Fundamentally, that resonates with me.
        That point conceded, we people of the gun need to recognize that we are in a political battle where public sentiment is about equally divided. We need to think about what tactics will get us to a position where we can act strategically. Think about it in these terms. Suppose we are considering candidates for our cause’s “poster child”. Should we pick:
        – the most sympathetic candidate?
        – the least sympathetic candidate?
        Take, for example, the #BlackLivesMatter cause. They seem to practice a policy of picking the least sympathetic candidate! Why choose a thug for your poster-child when you could, instead, pick a choir-boy who had the misfortune of being abused by cops? How stupid (politically) can these people be?
        We PotG face the same problem. So, we have a choice:
        – champion the cause of some vicious murderer who served his sentence of 25 years?
        or,
        – champion the cause of some guy who committed a misdemeanor with a potential 2-year sentence who got 3-months and has lived an exemplary life for 20 years?
        If we insist upon being RIGHT in PRINCIPLE then we must defend the RIGHT of Charles Manson (should he ever be released) to buy a machine gun. And, we will lose in the court of public opinion.
        If we want to win the political battle we will search for sympathetic cases and champion their causes. We should push for re-funding the DoJ program to investigate and process petitions for re-habilitation. We will champion the causes of Vets and SS Disability benefits.
        We first need to move our cause from about 50% to 55% then 60% then 75% and then 85% whereupon we have a sporting chance to make quite a lot of reform. E.g, suppose we get a change restoring 2A rights to convicts after 5-years of violation-free living post release. Such a tactic has a chance of working.

    • I believe it was the intruder, not the disabled individual, who had been sentenced for a felony domestic violence conviction.

      • MarkPA

        Thank you for pointing this out. I re-read the article and I agree with your reading. (It’s conceivable that my reading was correct but the article was badly written; but, the probability of this hypothesis isn’t worth considering.) That makes it an open-and-shut case.

  • ted

    They forbid discrimination for other things, why allow it for gun owners

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