Feds Label Gun Stores 'Critical Infrastructure,' New Jersey Stores Re-Open
Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Saturday night issued an advisory that called gun dealers “critical infrastructure” and said they could remain open with other essential businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
DHS said the advisory wasn’t a mandate, just merely guidance, the Associated Press reported.
But some states like New Jersey, who were already facing lawsuits, backed down on their initial orders to close gun shops and went along with the DHS advisory.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order on March 21 that closed all non-essential businesses in his state until further notice, and he included firearms dealers on the list of prohibited businesses, Politico reported.
Three different gun rights organizations immediately filed suit against that state to force it to allow the gun stores to re-open.
Murphy caved shortly after the DHS advisory was issued, according to Politico.
“In accordance with the guidance released over the weekend by the federal Department of Homeland Security, we will allow firearms sellers to operate,” Murphy told reporters on Monday.
Firearms dealers must operate on a “by appointment” basis and “during limited hours,” Politico reported.
The governor made it clear that the decision wasn’t his.
“It wouldn’t have been my definition, but that’s the definition at the federal level. I didn’t get a vote on that,” Murphy said.
Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs Executive Director Scott Bach said that while his organization was pleased with the reversal, they would not be rescinding their lawsuit, Politico reported.
“It’s good that the governor has finally bowed to pressure from the federal government, but our case is going to continue,” Bach said. “We are seeking a permanent injunction preventing this from ever happening again in this or future administrations.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom first declared firearm dealers non-essential but ultimately left it up to individual sheriffs to determine whether firearms dealers will remain open in their counties, Forbes reported.
But Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva shut down firearms dealers in his county on Thursday to everyone except police and licensed security company employees after Newsom said he considered them non-essential businesses, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Multiple gun rights groups have filed lawsuits that claimed that the state closing down the only legal means to purchase a gun effectively “shutters the Constitutional right to bear arms.”
“Twenty-eight years ago, the LAPD had to withdraw their officers to protect their safety,” California Gun Rights Foundation Chairman Gene Hoffman pointed out. “We hope that the stay-home orders will mean that our public servants will not become infected in this pandemic, but the Constitution guarantees that everyone has a right to acquire arms and defend themselves should law enforcement not be able to respond before it’s too late.”
The lawsuit noted that San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore had proclaimed firearms stores “a valuable public service,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
Sheriff Gore said he was concerned gun buyers would turn to the black market if legal dealers were closed.