Gun stores in Delaware were told to close during the coronavirus pandemic. Owners, on Thursday, were given cease and desist orders. 3/26/20
Delaware News Journal
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Firearms stores in Delaware can now accept customers by appointment only, the state said Thursday.
An emergency order from Gov. John Carney to close nonessential businesses was amended to allow the change, following in Pennsylvania’s footsteps.
It comes less than two days after Delaware State Police began issuing cease-and-desist orders to businesses that remained open. By mid-afternoon Thursday, troopers had delivered four letters: three to firearms stores and one to a vape shop.
Gov. John Carney’s modification came at about 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
“I applaud (Carney) for listening to the store owners and the people and being reactive to the wants and needs of the community and doing the right thing,” said Mitch Denham, founder of Delaware Gun Rights, a 21,000-member Facebook group. “I’m glad to hear that this happened.”
The classification of firearms stores as “nonessential” elicited uproar from gun rights advocates, who said the forced closures were a “direct infringement” on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 20 of the Delaware Constitution.
Both grant citizens the right to bear arms.
“We want people to be able to have access that don’t have access,” Denham told Delaware Online/The News Journal on Wednesday. “Maybe you’re anti-gun and never saw a reason to have one until now, so you’ve never had one.
“Now you don’t have access to protect yourself and your family, and that’s what we’re fighting against.”
Carney’s Sunday order didn’t specifically list firearms stores as “nonessential.” Rather, those businesses were given the same North American Industry Classification code as sporting goods, hobby and musical instrument stores, which are considered “nonessential.”
The Thursday modification allows firearms dealers to “conduct sales of firearms, ammunition and other goods directly related to responsible firearm storage and maintenance, by appointment only.”
No more than two appointments per half-hour are permitted, and sellers can operate only during the business hours they were open before Carney’s state of emergency.
Robert Miller, owner of Miller’s Gun Center on U.S. 13 near New Castle, said he stayed open on Tuesday and Wednesday — the closure order went into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday — because he didn’t feel that he fell under the sporting goods classification.
“We’re obviously not a hobby store or music store or bookstore, and my interpretation of a sporting goods store is a store that sells basketballs, baseballs, baseball equipment, baseball gloves, etc.,” Miller said. “We don’t sell that. We’re selling firearms.”
Troopers delivered a cease-and-desist order to Miller around 5 p.m. Wednesday, hours after they gave him a verbal warning that he had to close. Miller said he closed immediately after receiving the official letter.
Miller’s wasn’t the only firearms store that remained open on Tuesday and Wednesday. StarQuest Shooters and Survival Supply on Concord Pike was open Tuesday but closed Wednesday after troopers delivered it a cease-and-desist letter.
First State Firearms, located just down the road from Miller’s Gun Center, was open both Tuesday and Wednesday but was also served with a cease-and-desist letter Wednesday afternoon. Troopers were seen Thursday monitoring the firearms businesses for compliance.
At one point, shortly before noon on Thursday, a trooper pulled up to Miller’s store and stopped to read the sign on his door, which said the shop was closed. Apparently satisfied, the trooper drove away without knocking on Miller’s door.
Firearms and ammunition sales have skyrocketed in the last several weeks, fueled by coronavirus fears.
Denham said it’s not the fear of getting sick that’s driving the sales: A firearm can’t prevent a person from falling ill. It’s the uncertainty of what lies ahead and how people will react in the coming weeks, he said.
“There’s an inherent fear with something that you can’t see,” Denham said. “If you can’t see a virus, you don’t know if you’re going to get it. You don’t know if you’re susceptible to it; you don’t know if you’re a carrier — there are a lot of unknowns.”
Carney’s amendment is similar to one issued by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday regarding firearms stores.
Pennsylvania initially listed those businesses as “nonessential” also, but Wolf quietly modified his order after being urged by three Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices.
One justice wrote the order was “in clear tension with the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution [and] the Pennsylvania Constitution,” an argument Denham and other gun rights advocates made this week following Carney’s list of “nonessential” businesses.
Denham said while he and others would still like to see firearms stores fully open and abide by the rules grocery stores have to follow, he was pleased that citizens can once again buy firearms and ammunition.
“I would love to see the governor move towards a full opening at some point, once we understand the virus better,” Denham said. “But I’ll take this as a win right now.”
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