Democrat Governors Back Off Gun-Buying Bans During State Shutdowns

Democrat Governors Back Off Gun-Buying Bans During State Shutdowns

It’s not often the firearm industry gets to thank New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. He’s certainly no friend of the industry. However, he justified the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s work with the White House and Department of Homeland Security to list firearm businesses as “essential critical infrastructure.”

Murphy had been the lone governor holding out on an emergency order that deprived his citizens of their ability to purchase firearms. His order closed retailers and shut down state police from running the required background checks. Now that DHS updated the list, specifically including firearm manufacturers, distributors, and retailers as “essential,” Murphy has changed his tune.

“It wouldn’t be my definition, but that’s the definition at the federal level, and I didn’t get a vote on that,” Murphy said in a press conference, updating the status change in the statewide gun rights ban. This realization affirms why NSSF worked diligently to protect the industry from ideologue politicians who would use a crisis to further their anti-gun agenda.

Can’t Buy, Can’t Defend

The Trump administration’s move to safeguard the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms is essential. The ability to exercise that right begins at the gun counter. When gun control activist politicians seized on an emergency to delay or outright deny the ability to lawfully purchase firearms, especially during times of uncertainty, the work of the firearm industry trade association and the Trump administration proved vital.

A free society depends on the ability of law-abiding citizens to exercise all their civil liberties, including the pre-existing right to keep and bear arms.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation saw the need to ensure Americans could exercise this right before the avalanche of governmental stay-at-home orders started. Firearm sales were skyrocketing. The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System officials confirmed to the trade association that a spike in background checks on March 16 reached 300 percent over the same day in 2019.

Since Feb. 23, they added, background checks have been roughly double what they were a year ago. That pace has remained steady.

Necessary for Security

The reasoning behind this is easy to understand. During times of uncertainty, Americans want to be sure about the safety of themselves and their loved ones. Safety and security are critical for a functioning society. That’s why the Founding Fathers penned it into the Bill of Rights not as a desire or status to be achieved, but as a necessity.

The NSSF knew this to be true, which is why it reached out quickly to the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for the firearm industry to be listed among others as essential. NSSF also worked with senators, members of Congress, governors, attorneys general, county officials, and mayors to make sure firearm retailers stayed open.

Kris Brown of the gun control group Brady Campaign claimed over the weekend that there is no constitutional right to immediately sell guns. But a right delayed is a right denied. For Brown and other gun control activists, it’s perfectly fine to twist a crisis to push an agenda.

Some governors, including those who embrace strict gun control, understand now isn’t the time to be fiddling with enumerated rights. The right to keep and bear a gun must also include the right to legally purchase one.

Politics Aside

Proving this is a rights issue and not a “red vs. blue” issue was Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the Democrat governor of Illinois. Pritzker was among the first governors to issue an emergency order, and his specifically noted firearm businesses were essential services. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont did the same. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf relented on his attempt to block gun sales. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reminded Lone Star State counties and municipalities that the state legislature sets firearm polices. In Texas, gun businesses remain open.

There are still challenges, to be sure. Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is taking it upon himself to interpret executive orders and DHS guidance. He decided after closing, reopening, and then closing gun stores again that retailers there could sell, but only to law enforcement and certified security guards. North Carolina’s Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker is refusing to sign handgun purchase permits, a holdover Jim Crow-era law that gives county sheriffs nearly complete autonomy on who can buy handguns.

This guidance from DHS, however, shows how important NSSF’s work is for all Americans, including during pandemics.

Lawrence G. Keane is a senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.
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