While many states and cities recognize gun stores as an essential part of the right to keep and bear arms, others are ordering them closed. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)
Across the country, the firearms industry is striving to remain in operation as an essential business despite attempts to trim Second Amendment rights.
In some areas, actions by anti-gun Democratic governors taking aim at gun shops during declared states of emergency are forcing some to shut their doors. This is a particular problem in jurisdictions where the state government controls the background check process. A dozen states serve as Point of Contact for all firearms transactions, rather than use the FBI’s NICS service.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday announced Executive Order 107 directing all non-essential retail businesses closed to the public to include the Garden State’s licensed firearms dealers. Further, as the New Jersey State Police runs the state’s NICS Unit, this included turning off online services for NICS transactions, a move that will remain in place “until further order by Governor Murphy.”
The Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs has responded that they will see Murphy in court over the move, one that blocks not only gun sales but also that of ammo.
“Gun rights exist precisely for emergencies like the one the country is facing right now with the Coronavirus,” said ANJRPC in a statement. “Honest citizens must be able to defend themselves and their families from all manner of threats in this type of emergency – not be blocked from exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed rights.”
On Friday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order to restrict all employees of non-essential industries and businesses triggered the closure of Remington’s iconic Ilion, New York factory as reported by local media in the Empire State. The facility will close to all but salaried employees until at least the end of April. Likewise, gun shops are shuttering as well.
Gov. Tom Wolf last week issued an order to close all “non-life-sustaining businesses,” a move which did not make an exception for gun shops despite warnings from firearms attorneys that the Governor could not direct such a closure. With threats of lawsuits materializing over the order, Wolf’s office paused over the weekend on the issue while the Commonwealth’s Supreme Court weighed in. In the end, the court sided with Wolf over the howls of three justices who disagreed with the decision.
“In light of the regulatory framework attending the sale and transfer of firearms, the inability of licensed firearm dealers to conduct any physical operations amounts to a complete prohibition upon the retail sale of firearms—an activity in which the citizens of this Commonwealth recently have been engaging on a large scale, and one guaranteed by both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of this Commonwealth,” said Justice David Wecht.
On Friday, Gov. Gina Raimondo issued an Executive Order pushing the state’s 7-day background check period on firearm transfers to 30 days. The move came on the urging of police officials who asked Raimondo for the increase, which would last until at least April 19.
“There is zero justification for extending the firearm waiting period to 30 days,” noted the NRA.
Notably, in some Point of Contact states helmed by Democratic governors with anti-gun records, firearms industry shops are on the list of “essential” businesses allowed to remain open. This includes Connecticut and Illinois.
“When an anti-gun Democrat governor declares that essential businesses include firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for the purposes of safety and security, that is a really big deal,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb in a statement emailed to Guns.com. “Every governor should copy the Illinois example when issuing ‘shelter-in-place’ and business closure orders in the face of the Coronavirus.”
Cities and Counties Muscling FFLs
In California, local governments are in many cases giving their area gun shops grief. In the San Francisco Bay area– surrounding the city that forced its gun stores out of business five years ago– San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo declared that such shops are non-essential. With that, local police went by to shut down the city’s sole FFL.
“We are having panic buying right now for food,” Liccardo said last week. “The one thing we cannot have is panic buying of guns.”
In another Bay Area crackdown on a licensed dealer, the Alameda County Sheriff’s office repeatedly told Solar Tactical in Castro Valley to close its doors. The shop’s owner refused at first but reportedly complied after the district attorney threatened him with prosecution.
“A gun store is an essential business because it’s a Second-Amendment right,” Solar Tactical owner Mike Addis told local media. “A lot of our customers are business owners and they’re concerned about looting or they’re concerned about their personal safety in the house.”
Meanwhile, the City of Fresno last week approved an emergency declaration that allows the city to forbid the sale of guns and ammo.
The trade organization for the American firearms industry, the National Shooting Sports Foundation is striving to have gun and ammo retailers and the like labeled as critically important during times of crisis.
“NSSF is in contact with the White House, Capitol Hill and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advocating that our industry – from manufacturers to distributors to retailers to ranges – be declared by DHS as a ‘national critical infrastructure industry,'” says the group. “The DHS list is only guidance to states and local governments and does not carry the force of law. Therefore, NSSF is proactively working at the state and local level to advocate that our industry be exempted from any emergency ordinances or orders as “essential businesses.'”