SCOPE NY

Briefings

  • 04/18/2020 9:09 PM | Anonymous

    BY DAN ZIMMERMAN |APR 13, 2020

    We’ve extensively covered the pending New York State Rifle & Pistol Association case (see here). There’s no way of knowing how the court will rule, of course, but the gun control advocates at Salon and other media outlets seem to be girding for a decision that slaps down the city of New York and furthers gun rights for all Americans.

    We certainly hope they’re right.

    Realizing it would likely lose the case, New York City amended its transportation rule in June to permit residents to take their handguns to second homes, businesses or shooting ranges outside city limits. And in July, the city filed a formal motion with the Supreme Court, requesting that the case be dismissed as moot. The court denied the motion in October, setting the stage for another Second Amendment showdown.

    In December’s oral arguments, the city again asked the court to moot the case. The city made no attempt to defend the transportation ban.

    Unfortunately, given the city’s capitulation and the Supreme Court’s right-wing orientation, the only real remaining question is the scope of the NRA’s inevitable victory. Even if the court reconsiders the city’s request and enters a dismissal order, the NRA will walk away with a significant win, having forced the city to rescind one of the most stringent gun-control laws in the country. On the other hand, a decision on the merits on constitutional grounds in the NRA’s favor would reward the organization with an even bigger triumph, endangering gun-control laws everywhere.

    A nation awash in firearms in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic awaits the court’s decision, which is expected by the end of June.

    – Bill Blum in The Supreme Court is poised to extend gun rights at the worst possible time.

    Link to the Article

  • 04/18/2020 8:15 PM | Anonymous

    By Phil Shiver,  APRIL 16, 2020

    She's 'overstepping her executive authority'.  They've had enough.

    Four county sheriffs in Michigan have announced opposition to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's restrictive stay-at-home orders, arguing that the governor is "overstepping her executive authority" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    In a news release Wednesday afternoon, the sheriffs from Manistee, Benzie, Leelanau, and Mason counties, asserted that they would not strictly enforce the governor's orders but instead "deal with every case as an individual situation and apply common sense in assessing the apparent violation."

    The news came as thousands flooded the state capitol Wednesday afternoon in protest of Whitmer's executive orders.

    "While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority," the release states. "She has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens."

    Whitmer's stay-at-home order began late last month and was initially set to expire on April 13 before it was extended until April 30. With the announcement of the extension, Whitmer also added further restrictions to the order, which previously required all residents to remain at home unless traveling to perform essential work or pick up food and supplies.

    The new restrictions prohibited residents from traveling between two residences within the state. Residents were given until April 10 to travel to one of their residences and after that they were required to stay there. Also under the new order, large stores were required to limit occupancy in their stores to no more than four customers for every 1,000 square feet.

    The cohort of sheriffs also stressed that their efforts would be on protecting their residents' God-given rights and constitutional freedoms.

    "Each of us took an oath to uphold and defend the Michigan Constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, and to ensure that your God given rights are not violated," the sheriffs said. "We believe that we are the last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties."

    They also said that the statewide focus should be on "reopening our counties and getting people back to work." They noted that this could be done while still operating under U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines such as washing hands and wearing masks.

    Whitmer's leadership is clearly being called into question as a result of her actions since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. A petition to remove her from office has been picking up steam since it was launched earlier this week. It now has over 250,000 signatures.

    Whitmer addressed the protest during an appearance on MSNBC, telling Joy Reid that the protesters who attended were endangering the lives of Michiganders. Many of them were not wearing masks and some were handing out candy to children with bare hands, she said.

    "It wasn't really about the stay-at-home order at all. It was essentially a political rally, a political statement that flies in the face of all of the science, all of the best practices in the stay-at-home order that was issued," she said. "This was a political rally.... that is going to endanger people's lives because this is precisely how COVID-19 spreads."

    This article has been updated to include the governor's response.

  • 04/18/2020 5:49 PM | Anonymous
    4/16/2020 9:44 PM, Anonymous

    Health Commissioner Howard Zucker and Governor Andrew Cuomo speak at a COVID-19 briefing in Albany on Wednesday. Mike Groll / Governor's Office

    In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the state legislature approved $40 million in emergency funding to help contain the COVID-19 outbreak in New York. Buried within the legislation is a provision that has alarmed progressive lawmakers and advocates: an extraordinary, broad, and little-understood expansion of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers.

    “I’m scared or concerned because I don’t know what the governor has in mind,” said Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, the longtime chair of his chamber’s health committee.

    With the support of both legislative leaders, the emergency funding bill overwhelmingly passed the Democrat-controlled Assembly and State Senate. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Majority Leader, and Carl Heastie, the Speaker of the State Assembly, pushed for its passage, overriding the concerns of the health committee chairs in both chambers.

    Cuomo did not offer a detailed explanation of his push to expand his emergency powers, telling reporters that “these are uncharted territories” and that “government has to respond.”

    The whole process was rushed, in typical Albany fashion. Word came Monday afternoon that legislation would be coming to the floor from the governor’s office, Gottfried said. The state’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, had met with Assembly Democrats for a briefing, making no mention of the need of additional emergency powers.

    The Assembly and Senate hardly debated the bill. It passed both houses after midnight, with little time to read it or seek outside counsel. The Senate approved the measure 53-4, while the Assembly voted 120 to 12 in favor.

    Though New York law already allows Cuomo to suspend provisions of any state or local statute that would delay in coping with a declared disaster, the new measure goes further, broadening the definition of disaster from a “past occurrence” to something that is “impending.”

    The new law specifically added “disease outbreak” to a list of triggering events alongside “epidemic,” and gives Cuomo new power to issue directives “necessary to cope with” a broad list of potential disasters, from tornados to cyberattacks to volcanic eruptions.

    The definition of disasters is general enough that critics fear Cuomo, a governor who already enjoys aggressively wielding executive power, can abuse the new law in a wide array of circumstances to override existing law.

    “It’s a reckless expansion of executive power,” said State Senator Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat who voted against the bill.

    In a statement, the New York Civil Liberties Union compared the new law to anti-terrorism provisions passed after 9/11 that were never used to prosecute terrorism. “We should not repeat the mistakes of 20 years ago. While the legislature should move expeditiously to fund and support the necessary public health response, nothing requires them to expand executive power without adequate consideration for the need or the potential consequences,” the NYCLU said.

    Part of the challenge of understanding the expansion is the lack of specificity in the bill language. Since the governor already has expansive emergency powers, adding more could theoretically justify all kinds of maneuvers, like the declaration of martial law, unilateral travel restrictions, and mass quarantines.

    The limits are largely unknown.

    Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, a Manhattan Democrat, said Cuomo’s expansion of emergency powers deeply concerned her as an Asian-American legislator.

    “One of my mentors was born inside an internment camp,” Niou said in an emotional Instagram video, referring to the unlawful detention of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. “I have an innate fear of what would happen if we allow our government to be able to weaponize fear and to be able to make a directive and have the power to order private citizens to do something without any checks and balances.”

    As far as Gottfried understands, Cuomo’s new emergency powers would allow the governor to override the due process the people who are quarantined are entitled to under existing law, like a person being required to see a judge after being arrested for violating an order.

    “Those are valuable safeguards,” Gottfried said. “As best as I can tell, the new law does away with them if the governor chooses to.”

    The law has a sunset provision and the legislature will have to renew it in a year. It’s unclear if Cuomo would push for a renewal. The governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    “We don’t fully understand the implications of the new powers versus the old ones,” said John Kaehny, the executive director of the good government group Reinvent Albany. “We have not had time to analyze its full scope.”

    Kaehny compared the new expansion of emergency powers to another that is quietly up for renewal Thursday: Cuomo’s declaration of emergency over the subway system. The 2017 declaration, made when the subway system was breaking down at an alarming rate, allowed the MTA to bypass environmental and anti-corruption safeguards when seeking new contracts to do work. Under the emergency declaration, the MTA is currently allowed to bypass the competitive bidding process entirely and oversight from the state comptroller’s office.

    The improving subway service hasn’t led to the removal of the emergency declaration.

    Gottfried, who has served in the legislature since the 1970s, said he was perplexed because no governor had ever asked him to expand emergency powers during previous crises, whether it was the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s, the response to Hurricane Sandy, or the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

    “The governor and health commissioner never asked for anything like that, never said their hands were tied.”


  • 04/18/2020 5:45 PM | Anonymous

    By Matt Mulcahy         Wednesday, April 1st 2020

    OAKDALE, N.Y. — Two men looking to purchase guns to defend their homes are suing New York Governor Andrew Cuomo over his executive order that declares which businesses are essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Firearms company Dark Storm Industries is also a party in the lawsuit making the complaint to Federal Court stating they can no longer sell weapons or ammunition to ordinary citizens in New York.

    Both Brian Doherty and Kevin Schmucker reside in Suffolk County. They each began transactions to purchase long guns before the Governor issued an Executive Order mandating which businesses would be declared essential services during the pandemic. Gun retailers were excluded from being declared essential. Dark Storm Industries applied for an exception.

    They received a response from New York State’s Empire State Development Corporation that said: “your business has been designated as essential solely with respect to work directly related to police and/or national defense matters are exempt from the current restriction.” Dark Storm sought further clarification. According to its legal claim, they replied to the ESD in an email asking, “So to be clear we may continue to conduct business with law enforcement and military but not civilians?” ESD responded, “Yes that is correct as advised by counsel.”

    On its website, Dark Storm cites unprecedented demand during this time. They say they are sold out of rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. They also state they are closed to the public but are able to service police, military, and security.

    The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare this Executive Order as unconstitutional. They are asking for an injunction to allow them to remain in business.

    New York State has not yet responded to the suit filed in the United States District Court in the Northern District of New York. A court date has been set for June.

  • 04/18/2020 5:35 PM | Anonymous

    By Jack Davis,   Published March 31, 2020 at 8:04am

    Facing a lawsuit over his controversial decision to shutter gun stores amid the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has now changed his mind, citing a federal ruling that gun stores are considered “essential.”

    Last week, the sheriff insisted gun stores had to be closed

    “Gun shops, strip clubs, night clubs are non-essential businesses. We are trying to get them to close their doors,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

    “If they don’t close their doors, they will be cited.”

    But Monday night, that changed.

    TRENDING: While Dems Lie About Trump's CDC Budget, Turns Out Obama Requested Millions in Cuts

    “On March 28, 2020, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued an Advisory Memorandum in regard to Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers during COVID-19 response. Although explicitly advisory in nature, nonetheless the federal memorandum is persuasive given its national scope,” Villanueva said in a statement posted to Twitter.

    The guidance he was referring to said that “[w]orkers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges” are considered part of the “essential critical infrastructure workforce,” according to Fox News.

    “Included in the list of essential critical infrastructure workers are workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges,” Villanueva said.

    “Based on this further input by the federal government, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not order or recommend closure of businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition,” the statement added.

    However, he said the department “will investigate reports of improper health practices such as poor sanitation or failure to maintain social distancing at all businesses; and forward detailed reports of unlawful health conditions to the District Attorney for their review and consideration.”

    “Regardless of whether a business sells groceries, gasoline, firearms, or any other product or service, we encourage them to abide by all health and safety measures in place,” Villanueva concluded.

  • 04/18/2020 5:32 PM | Anonymous

    By Andrew P. Napolitano

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”            — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

    One of my Fox colleagues recently sent me an email attachment of a painting of the framers signing the Constitution of the United States. Except in this version, George Washington — who presided at the Constitutional Convention — looks at James Madison — who was the scrivener at the Convention — and says, “None of this counts if people get sick, right?”

    In these days of state governors issuing daily decrees purporting to criminalize the exercise of our personal freedoms, the words put into Washington’s mouth are only mildly amusing. Had Washington actually asked such a question, Madison, of all people, would likely have responded: “No. This document protects our natural rights at all times and under all circumstances.”

    It is easy, 233 years later, to offer that hypothetical response, particularly since the Supreme Court has done so already when, as readers of this column will recall, Abraham Lincoln suspended the constitutionally guaranteed writ of habeas corpus — the right to be brought before a judge upon arrest — only to be rebuked by the Supreme Court.

    The famous line above by Benjamin Franklin, though uttered in a 1755 dispute between the Pennsylvania legislature and the state’s governor over taxes, nevertheless provokes a truism.

    Namely, that since our rights come from our humanity, not from the government, foolish people can only sacrifice their own freedoms, not the freedoms of others.

    Thus, freedom can only be taken away when the government proves fault at a jury trial. This protection is called procedural due process, and it, too, is guaranteed in the Constitution.

    Of what value is a constitutional guarantee if it can be violated when people get sick? If it can, it is not a guarantee; it is a fraud. Stated differently, a constitutional guarantee is only as valuable and reliable as is the fidelity to the Constitution of those in whose hands we have reposed it for safekeeping.

    Because the folks in government, with very few exceptions, suffer from what St. Augustine called libido dominandi — the lust to dominate — when they are confronted with the age-old clash of personal liberty versus government force, they will nearly always come down on the side of force.

    How do they get away with this? By scaring the daylights out of us. I never thought I’d see this in my lifetime, though our ancestors saw this in every generation. In America today, we have a government of fear. Machiavelli offered that men obey better when they fear you than when they love you. Sadly, he was right, and the government in America knows this.

    But Madison knew this as well when he wrote the Constitution. And he knew it four years later when he wrote the Bill of Rights. He intentionally employed language to warn those who lust to dominate that, however they employ governmental powers, the Constitution is “the Supreme Law of the Land” and all government behavior in America is subject to it.

    Even if the legislature of the State of New York ordered, as my friend Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who as the governor, cannot write laws that incur criminal punishment — has ordered, it would be invalid as prohibited by the Constitution.

    This is not a novel or an arcane argument. This is fundamental American law. Yet, it is being violated right before our eyes by the very human beings we have elected to uphold it. And each of them — every governor interfering with the freedom to make one’s own choices — has taken an express oath to comply with the Constitution.

    You want to bring the family to visit grandma? You want to engage in a mutually beneficial, totally voluntary commercial transaction? You want to go to work? You want to celebrate Mass? These are all now prohibited in one-third of the United States.

    I tried and failed to find Mass last Sunday. When did the Catholic Church become an agent of the state? How about an outdoor Mass?

    What is the nature of freedom? It is an unassailable natural claim against all others, including the government. Stated differently, it is your unconditional right to think as you wish, to say what you think, to publish what you say, to associate with whomever wishes to be with you no matter their number, to worship or not, to defend yourself, to own and use property as you see fit, to travel where you wish, to purchase from a willing seller, to be left alone. And to do all this without a government permission slip.

    What is the nature of government? It is the negation of freedom. It is a monopoly of force in a designated geographic area. When elected officials fear that their base is slipping, they will feel the need to do something — anything — that will let them claim to be enhancing safety. Trampling liberty works for that odious purpose. Hence a decree commanding obedience, promising safety and threatening punishment.

    These decrees — issued by those who have no legal authority to issue them, enforced by cops who hate what they are being made to do, destructive of the freedoms that our forbearers shed oceans of blood to preserve and crushing economic prosperity by violating the laws of supply and demand — should all be rejected by an outraged populace, and challenged in court.

    These challenges are best filed in federal courts, where those who have trampled our liberties will get no special quarter. I can tell you from my prior life as a judge that most state governors fear nothing more than an intellectually honest, personally courageous, constitutionally faithful federal judge.

    Fight fear with fear.

    • Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is a regular contributor to The Washington Times. He is the author of nine books on the U.S. Constitution.

    Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. .

    washingtontimes.com/news/2020/mar/25/what-good-are-constitutional-rights-if-they-are-vi/


  • 04/18/2020 5:28 PM | Anonymous

    By Nick Reisman, City of Albany
    PUBLISHED 11:24 AM ET Mar. 27, 2020

    Republican state Sen. Robert Ortt in a letter this week to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged him to open gun and sportsmen stores in New York amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Keeping them closed, Ortt argued in the letter, deprives New Yorkers of their Second Amendment rights. He pointed to neighboring Pennsylvania, which has allowed gun stores to operate on a limited hours basis.

    "While taking proper public health precautions is necessary and appropriate, the Constitution is not nullified in the face of a pandemic, and the Second Amendment’s value still remains," Ortt wrote in the letter. "New Yorkers still deserve the right to protect themselves, and allowing gun shops to operate would help New Yorkers exercise that right."

    Non-essential workers have been ordered to stay home in New York and businesses that do not fall under the category have closed their physical locations.

    Food stores, pharmacies and health care centers can remain open.

    This is the first full week of the New York "pause" to prevent the spread of the virus.

  • 04/18/2020 5:20 PM | Anonymous

    MAR 18, 2020 BY: JOSÉ NIÑO

    A Florida man was recently subjected to the horrors of Florida’s draconian red flag gun confiscation law.

    Reason Magazine’s Jacob Sullum recounted this incident, which involved the use of Florida’s red flag gun confiscation policy, which Republican Governor Rick Scott signed it into law following the outrage from the Parkland shooting in 2018.

    Kevin Morgan was initially the victim of this unconstitutional gun grab. Morgan’s estranged wife, Joanie, believed he “was depressed, suicidal, and obsessed with the apocalypse.” She went on to say that he was stockpiling ammunition, food, gold, and guns in preparation for the end times. She even asserted that Morgan was talking about “seeing, hearing, and wrestling with demons.”

    But it didn’t stop there. According to the estranged wife, Morgan had performed a ritual where he rubbed “oils” on their children and their house walls. Further, she alleged that her husband was abusing prescription drugs for chronic pain and openly talked about dismembering his previous wife and threatened to do the same if she ever got on his bad side.

    Based on these claims, Joanie Morgan was able to obtain a temporary domestic violence projection injunction, an involuntary psychiatric evaluation under the Florida Mental Health Act (a.k.a. the Baker Act), and a temporary "risk protection order" under Florida’s current red flag law. The final protection order authorizes the removal of firearms from a person when he is considered a threat to himself or others. In Florida’s case, police and prosecutors are the only parties allowed to submit red flag petitions, but they are not always careful about investigating the allegations by people who may have a grudge. Disgruntled people – spouses, exes, roommates – can make flimsy accusations.

    Rachel Montgomery, a detective with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, was the law enforcement official who filed a red flag petition against Morgan. Circuit Judge Peter Brigham then issued the ex parte risk protection order on September 18, 2018, six months after Florida's red flag law went into effect. All three of these were ex parte orders. In other words, Morgan did not have a chance to defend himself against the allegations levied against him.

    Montgomery said that she had responded to a complaint from Joanie Morgan claiming her partner had breached the temporary domestic violence protection injunction by going back to the house in Citrus Springs to pick up clothing, medications, "several firearms," and his Ford Mustang. Montgomery briefly summarized the assertions Joanie Morgan made in her various petitions against Kevin Morgan. She asserted that Morgan “has had a decline in mental stability over the last four months" and “displayed erratic [sic] behaviors to include making threats to dismember a former paramour and threats to kill his entire family while yielding [sic] a vial containing a paralytic agent." She continued by noting that "the respondent has purchased several firearms and ammunition during this time period."

    These claims did not add up, however, after Montgomery continued to dig deeper into the case. She discovered there was no basis for the accusation that Kevin Morgan disobeyed the injunction by visiting the house.

    "I determined that it wasn't him that had gone to the house," she said. "It was actually a pool maintenance worker that had been by the house." Regarding the domestic violence injunction, "…the firearms had been transferred prior to his risk protection order,” which meant that there were no guns for Morgan to get from the house.

    Even with the Baker Act petition in, psychiatrist and mental health professionals determined that Kevin Morgan was in stable mental shape and did not require involuntary treatment after he was taken to a mental health facility back in September 2018. At a hearing to determine if Kevin Morgan’s protective orders should be extended, Joannie Morgan’s testimony was emotional, but lacking in evidence. This led to Montgomery admitting that he did not meet the law’s evidentiary standard for confiscating his firearms and committing him to an institution. The judge ended up concurring and threw out the orders.

    After this entire ordeal, Morgan offered his thoughts. The sheriff's office "jumped into a civil action without completing a proper investigation," Morgan said. "I don't think the average person understands just how dangerous these laws are. Hopefully, if my story can get out, folks will see how easily (red flag laws) can be used against someone for revenge or to get an upper hand in (a custody dispute). I want people to know how these laws can be used improperly, in the hope that some reforms will take place. We need protection for falsely accused individuals and stiff punishment for those who abuse the system."

    This case demonstrates why America is a nation of laws and has safeguards to protect the accused from false allegations. Without these measures in place, individuals could see their civil liberties eviscerated by people with an axe to grind or public officials with no desire to comply with laws. In a nation ruled by men, you can bet that gun rights will never be secure.

  • 04/16/2020 10:40 PM | Anonymous

    By Sandy Malone,  Apr 13, 2020

    Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed five anti-gun measures into law and promised to take another run at "assault rifles."

    Richmond, VA – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed five anti-gun bills into law on Friday as gun control advocates celebrated.

    Northam signed a bill that requires background checks for all firearms sales in the state of Virginia on April 10, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

    The governor also signed the re-instatement of a law that limits residents to one handgun purchase per month.

    He put into place a “red flag” law that allows police to take guns away from anyone deemed a danger to themselves or others, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

    The batch of new gun control legislation Northam enacted also included a law that requires gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 24 hours and another that increased penalties for leaving a loaded gun accessible to children.

    The governor sent two bills back to the statehouse with technical changes, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

    The first included a clarification of an exemption for universities under a bill that allows localities to ban guns in public.

    For the other, Northam suggested that people under a permanent protective order who can’t prove they have given up their guns should be held in contempt of court by judges, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

    The governor also vowed to take another run at an "assault weapons" ban in 2021, after more moderate Democrats in the state senate tabled it in February.

    “I have always said that we do not need weapons of war on our streets,” he said.

    Gun control advocates celebrated what have become major changes to the state’s gun laws under the newly-elected Democratic majority in its capitol, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

    “Virginians wanted change,” Democratic State House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn told reporters. “We were not leaving Richmond in March without historic progress on gun violence prevention.”

    But the House Republican leader, State Delegate Todd Gilbert, pointed to the fact that gun sales across the state had been through the roof since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

    “To take a victory lap on such a controversial issue at a time when Virginians are buying firearms at a record pace to protect themselves and their families is counterintuitive,” Gilbert said.

    The new laws go in to effect on July 1, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

  • 02/13/2020 11:11 AM | Anonymous

    By Harold Moskowitz

    When France and Great Britain fought each other in the 1790’s, the United States neutrality policy recommended by President Washington was questioned. Some Americans favored France out of dislike for the British and gratitude for French assistance during the Revolution. Others, horrified by reports of bloody executions during the French Revolution, sided with Great Britain.

    The United States had signed a neutrality agreement but France wanted the United States to support them against the British. The government resisted their pressure and instead signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain which settled old issues. The French reacted by interfering with American shipping. President John Adams sent envoys to France in an effort to diffuse hostility. French diplomats responded by seeking bribe money for granting access to their Foreign Minister and a loan for the French war effort against Britain.

    When news of the French diplomatic actions reached Adams, he requested and was given Congressional funding for a military buildup. A two-year undeclared war with France followed. It is known as the “Quasi-War.” During this time, French naval vessels and privateers attacked our ships. They did all that they could to disrupt American trade with Great Britain.

    In order to finance the ‘Quasi-War,’ Congress needed to raise two million dollars. It chose to impose the only direct tax on personal property in our nation’s history. Known as the “House Tax” (1798), it taxed residential structures, land, and slaves. Each state was to be proportionately responsible for its share of the total. Pennsylvania’s share was $237,000.

    Since there were very few slaves in Pennsylvania, the tax was mostly based upon inhabited residences and land ownership. The taxable amount for homeowners was to be based upon the size of the windows and the number of window panes. Many state residents refused to pay the tax. They claimed that the tax was not being levied equally in proportion to the state’s population as was required by the U.S. Constitution.

    Many of the settlers in the northeastern past of the state were originally from Germany where they had been forced to pay a “Hearth Tax.” It was also disliked because it was for funding a “non-existing” war.

    In Bucks, Lehigh, Northampton, and Montgomery Counties, people began to protest the tax. As during the American Revolution, “liberty poles” were erected. Women even threw hot water down from the second floors of houses onto the agents as they counted and measured windows on the ground floor. John Fries became the leader of the opposition. He began to lead a group of about sixty armed men. Their goal was to prevent tax assessors from carrying out their job. Often, tax agents were intimidated and run out of town. Their lives were threatened.

    Fries told an assessor that if he did not leave, “700 men would be ready to fight to the end.” A few assessors were taken hostage and held for several hours. Upon release, they were threatened with death if they returned. The governor sent the militia to arrest rebels and tax resistors in what became known as “Fries’ Rebellion.”

    Nineteen men were arrested. Fries and 400 men freed them from the custody of a United States Marshal. President Adams called for a militia to be raised. The 1,200 man militia rearrested the 19 freed prisoners. Fries was captured. He and two others were tried for treason. As was the situation in the Whiskey Rebellion (1794) trials, the definition of “treason” was an expanded one. It said that “combining to defeat or resist a federal law was the equivalent of levying war against the United States.”The others were tried for misdemeanors such as “opposition to the House Tax,” “hindering the assessors in their duties,” and “holding unlawful meetings for interfering with the execution of the laws.”

    Forty-one of the arrested men were tried in federal court. Three, including Fries, were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Those tried for misdemeanors were convicted except for one. Two days before the execution date, President Adams pardoned the three condemned men as well as those who had been convicted of misdemeanors.

    Fries was seen by many in the nation as a victim of federal power. The handling of the “rebellion” by President Adams damaged the political standing of the Federalist Party. Hostility in Pennsylvania prevented Adams from “carrying” the state in the election of 1800, allowing Jefferson to defeat him. The “House Tax” was repealed in 1802. Armed citizen resistance had made a difference. 

A 2nd Amendment Defense Organization, defending the rights of New York State gun owners to keep and bear arms!

PO Box 165
East Aurora, NY 14052

SCOPE is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization.

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