When many elected Democrats used the COVID-19 crisis to attack gun rights, the Trump administration responded by adding gun stores and manufacturers to a list of critical infrastructure. This action joined lawsuits filed in California, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, so far, in the pushback against forced closures of firearms businesses. Adding their employees to the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce list is working in the red states where taking away gun rights is the icing on the cake for anti-gun mayors and governors.
Many states and localities acted against Second Amendment rights by leaving gun stores off lists of approved retailers. If everything not explicitly permitted is prohibited, it’s easy to frustrate the gun-owning rights of the public. Omitting gun shops and manufacturers from lists of places allowed to remain open is a backdoor ban on guns.
On the other hand, adding gun sellers and producers to the list does not have the force of federal law or regulation. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution might make such a measure trump state law, but not here. Instead, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency that publishes this memo or “guidance” may, by example, tradition, and gravitas, change the way state and local authorities act. It reads:
“This list is intended to help State, local, tribal and territorial officials as they work to protect their communities while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. Decisions informed by this list should also take into consideration additional public health considerations based on the specific COVID-19-related concerns of particular jurisdictions.”
Will the inclusion of the firearms production and distribution community in the list maintained by the Trump administration move hardcore anti-gunners to honor our rights? That seemed like a tall order as we keep in mind that Democratic politicians think gun stores should be shuttered, while toy stores and dry cleaners, for instance, must be allowed to function in a state of emergency. Yet, it is working!
New Jersey – home of rabidly anti-gun politicians – has now reversed course and will allow the transfer of firearms. Governor Phil Murphy announced, “In accordance with the guidance released over the weekend by the federal Department of Homeland Security, we will allow firearms sellers to operate.” Murphy does not agree with the Trump administration’s move, but he acted on it anyway, as the authors of the policy intended. Murphy said:
“It wouldn’t have been my definition, but that’s the definition at the federal level. I didn’t get a vote on that.”
Los Angeles County is home to more people than New Jersey, and its sheriff, Alex Villanueva, has gone back and forth on closing gun shops. But the federal guidance swayed him, too, at least for now. “Although explicitly advisory in nature, nonetheless the federal memorandum is persuasive given its national scope,” he said, adding that “the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not order or recommend closure of businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition.”
Pennsylvania and Delaware have now amended their emergency closure orders to allow for some commerce in guns and ammo. The restrictions still in place, however, seem counter to the need for increased personal space and the right to keep and bear arms. We should expect orders from the federal courts soon that clarify what restrictions the judicial branch of government considers acceptable in the face of the Coronavirus. There are active lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions to determine what limits can be placed on businesses in response to the pandemic.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.