California’s attempts to use the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic as a pretext to deprive law-abiding Americans of their Second Amendment rights are being challenged in federal court. On Friday, the National Rifle Association, the largest Second Amendment advocacy group in the country, joined local businesses and other advocacy groups as they filed lawsuits against Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alexander Villanueva in response to the state’s decision to classify gun stores as “non-essential businesses” and force them to close as a coronavirus prevention measure.
Gun stores across the country have been seeing unprecedented sales of firearms and ammunition in recent weeks as Americans choose to arm themselves in the face of uncertain times ahead.
But in California, Governor Newsom gave county sheriffs the latitude to make decisions about whether gun stores were to be considered essential businesses or not. Villanueva, however, couldn’t make up his mind. First he ordered gun stores to close, then reversed the decision on the same day, then decided to listen to the inner dictator in him and close them after all.
According to the suit, California’s attempt to close gun stores during a state of emergency is unconstitutional as the shops allow people to exercise their Second Amendment rights. “Municipalities who target lawful gun stores for closure aren’t promoting safety,” the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action said in a statement. “By weaponizing their politics to disarm you and your loved ones, these shameless partisans are recklessly promoting a gun-control agenda that suffocates your self-defense rights when you need them most. NRA members recognize these unlawful power-grabs for what they are.”
In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf was also for issuing an executive order that ordered non-essential businesses, including gun stores, closed. Although Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court decided in favor of the Governor, dissenting opinions warned that the edict was unconstitutional, and ultimately Wolf elected to allow gun shops to remain open by appointment only, in order to preserve social distancing measures.
Similar battles are underway in several other states. Delaware, like Pennsylvania, initially tried to define gun stores as non-essential but eventually allowed them to open on an appointment basis. In Maine, New Jersey, and New Mexico, however, the issue is still being contended, and gun owners and their representatives are being forced to fight for firearms dealers to be able to keep their doors open during the emergency.
And in Wake County, North Carolina, the Sheriff, Gerald Baker, has suspended the issuing of new handgun permits. This makes it impossible for residents to acquire such firearms until the emergency passes.
But in Texas, where some city and county governments attempted to close gun stores as part of their crisis response measures, State Representative Dustin Burrows demanded that this be reviewed, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton then made it clear that they are exempt.
As always, American gun owners will have to remain vigilant to protect their constitutional rights.