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Why Governments Shouldn’t Close Gun Stores During A Pandemic

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Business across America is grinding to a halt. Some of this is due to self-isolation and some to stay-at-home orders by government officials. There are exceptions for businesses critical to maintaining a functioning society. Gun businesses need to be among them.

Americans are turning out in droves to purchase firearms. In times of crisis, keeping yourself and your loved ones safe must be certain. America is entering into an unsettled time, and hundreds of thousands of Americans, many of whom have never owned a gun before, are taking action.

Gun stores across the nation are flooded with customers. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System officials told the National Shooting Sports Foundation that background checks skyrocketed 300 percent March 16, 2020, compared to the same date one year prior. FBI officials told the firearm industry trade association that since Feb. 23, background checks have been roughly double each day what they were a year ago.

The exact numbers will be available in early April, but all expect firearm sales figures to be eye-popping. The reasoning is easy to understand. Americans want to know they have access to guns when there are real concerns for personal safety. Authorities announced they would no longer jail nonviolent offenders, and some police departments are being forced to quarantine and temporarily reduce staff due to health concerns.

Disparate Closure Orders

Governors and mayors are issuing a patchwork of orders hampering essential manufacturing and retail services. The Department of Homeland Security critical infrastructure list doesn’t carry the force of law, however. It is only government guidance.

Right now, governmental orders are arbitrary. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s shelter-in-place order specifically declared that firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers are essential and may remain open for business. That’s not the case everywhere, though.

  • In California, the state government ordered residents to stay in their homes, and local governments including Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties and the City of San Jose have ordered firearms retailers to close.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order for nonessential workers to stay home shuttered Remington’s plant in Ilion.
  • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont ordered nonessential businesses to close, while allowing defense-related work to continue — excluding firearms retailers.
  • Athens-Clarke County in Georgia passed an ordinance requiring firearms retailers to close as nonessential businesses. [UPDATE: The county has reversed itself and listed firearms retailers as essential businesses.]
  • In Nevada, the governor has not included firearms companies in the list of essential businesses.
  • Pennsylvania’s governor ordered the closing of all “non-life-sustaining businesses.”
  • Additional localities, including New Orleans, have measures in place that could lead to the shutdown of firearms businesses.

That’s why the firearm industry trade association is working with Capitol Hill, governors, and local officials — not to request a government bailout, but to detail the indispensable role firearms commerce provides for a free and functioning American society. Keeping gun businesses running isn’t a luxury of a free state. It is a necessity.

Necessary for the Security…

The Founding Fathers knew firearms were critical for the functioning of a free society. It’s spelled out in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

That’s why the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security to request it include firearm and ammunition businesses in its list of critical infrastructure industry sectors that should remain open during this public health crisis. Firearm and ammunition industries are crucial for national security and community safety, especially during a time of societal vulnerability. Even while our nation’s scientists and doctors search for a way to head off infection, the military and law enforcement missions continue.

Firearm and ammunition production is vital, as these manufacturers fulfill government contracts to keep American and allied troops armed. The U.S. military acquires virtually all its small arms from domestic commercial firearm manufacturers. All handgun ammunition the U.S. military uses is sourced from commercial ammunition manufacturers.

The Department of Defense arsenal located in Lake City, Missouri, is operated by a commercial ammunition manufacturer, and most of the rifle ammunition the U.S. military uses is produced in Lake City. The U.S. military also purchases rifle ammunition directly from domestic commercial ammunition manufacturers.

Critical, too, are the retailers and ranges for community safety. Most law enforcement agencies obtain firearms and ammunition from their local, federally licensed firearms retailer. Retailers and ranges are also a valuable resource for gun owners regarding safe firearm storage and use.

What New Gun Owners Must Know

New gun owners might find themselves in a dilemma. They brought their new gun home but aren’t sure what to do. Some might also be under stay-at-home orders, making it difficult to get to a range to learn from a qualified instructor. One of the first considerations every gun owner must make after purchasing a firearm is deciding which safe storage option works best.

NSSF says every firearm when not carried or in use should be locked up beyond the reach of those who aren’t authorized to possess them, including children, prohibited individuals, and those who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. Each new firearm includes a cable lock, and NSSF’s Project Childsafe distributes these to law enforcement officers to hand out free of charge.

Besides cable locks, gun owners can get lockboxes, biometric safes, or traditional upright safes. Firearms owners must understand which option works best for them and should thoroughly read and understand the user manual included with each new firearm.

Ryan Cleckner founded and is a former Army Ranger sniper, firearms attorney, and author of “Long Range Shooting Handbook.” He’s an unparalleled firearms expert who updated his Gun University’s Gun 101 page to give new owners the tools they need, including lessons on how to safely unload a gun, help finding qualified training, and the four foundational safety rules for firearms. NSSF offers videos that teach these rules:

  • Always point a firearm in a safe direction.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
  • Know your target and what’s around it, including beyond it.

If new owners aren’t ordered to stay home, they should seek reputable and qualified training. NSSF’s is a good place to start, with an entire section dedicated to new shooters and an interactive map to find a range for safe shooting.