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Are Guns ‘Essential’ in the Virus Era? Americans Stock Up as States Differ

ORLANDO SENTINEL March 25, 2020 –  Groceries. Gasoline. Medical care. Marijuana, in some places. All have been designated essential to society in more than a dozen states that have ordered many other businesses to close.

But what about guns?

Firearm and ammunition sales have soared in recent weeks, so clearly, some Americans want them. A gun industry association is lobbying federal and state governments to categorize firearm manufacturers and dealers as critical infrastructure, complaining that F.B.I. background checks are slowing things down as more people try to purchase weapons.

But officials have been split over whether gun stores and ammunition dealers can remain open alongside pharmacies, gas stations and laundromats, leading to confusion and legal challenges as at least 19 states have issued some form of stay-at-home orders. In Ohio, Illinois and Michigan, gun stores have been deemed essential.

In New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, they have not. In Los Angeles, where long lines of customers have been stretching out the door of some gun shops over the past few weeks, the county sheriff ordered his deputies to make sure they were closed after 10 million residents were ordered to stay at home starting last weekend. But on Tuesday, after the county’s top lawyer said the shops could stay open, the sheriff reversed his decision.

The patchwork of policies and shifting interpretations have highlighted the question of what is truly an essential business during the pandemic, with lobbyists and guns rights advocates arguing that even a public health emergency shouldn’t restrict the Second Amendment.

“People want to exercise their God-given right to bear arms and protect their families,” said Mark Oliva, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry association lobbying for special protection for dealers and manufacturers.  [full article]

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