In the midst of state and local authorities in some areas moving to close gun shops during the coronavirus emergency, the Trump administration stepped in Saturday to make clear such outlets are “essential.”
The Second Amendment which guarantees private gun ownership as a constitutional right in the U.S. also extends protections to commercial gun sellers, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which issued the guidance.
Under the section on “law enforcement, public safety and other first responders,” the list includes, “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges.”
In largely Democratic states such as California and New Jersey, state and local authorities cited the lack of clear DHS guidelines as one reason they were moving to shut down the purchase and, in some cases, manufacturing of firearms.
Some legal challenges have already been filed against such actions. On Friday, the NRA filed a federal suit in California to stop instances where local officials interpreted Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “shelter in place” orders as making gun stores “non-essential.”
The NRA and other Second Amendment groups depicted the targeting of gun stores as an attempt to realize political goals under the cloak of emergency public safety measures.
“NRA members recognize these unlawful power-grabs for what they are, and the National Rifle Association is proud to stand and fight alongside fellow Second Amendment groups who recognize it as well,” said Jason Ouimet, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.
The lawsuit named as defendants Gov. Newsom and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who moved Friday to shutter the city’s gun stores.
On the other side of the left-right political divide, abortion groups have also sued to keep their facilities open in Texas, where authorities deemed providers of the procedure “non-essential” and ordered their closing. The three abortion clinics in Louisiana also shut down following “shelter in place” orders March 22.
Gun sales have been exceptionally brisk during the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple reports, and some states had carved out an “essential” exception for gun stores prior to the DHS’ guidance.
“It is very encouraging to see CISA include the firearms industry as essential,” GOA senior vice president Erich Pratt said in a statement. “In these uncertain times, the ability to protect yourself — and to acquire firearms, magazines and ammunition – should not be ignored.”