HARTFORD, Conn. — As governors across the country put their states into lockdown and allow only essential businesses to remain open, they’re split on one question: Are gun stores essential?
In Connecticut and a handful of other states, the answer is yes.
Gov. Ned Lamont released details earlier this week on an executive order that, among many other things, classified gun stores as “essential” businesses and allowed them to remain open amid a coronavirus shutdown.
Lamont is not the only governor to let gun sellers keep doing business. The Courant reviewed the lockdown orders in 14 other states and found that six have allowed gun and ammo retailers to stay open during lockdown. The list of states where gun stores are closed and not considered essential includes New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
While gun control activists have railed against Lamont’s decision, gun rights groups have lauded the move.
The day after Lamont released a detailed breakdown of essential businesses, including firearm retailers, the National Rifle Association praised him.
“Your NRA would like to thank Gov. Lamont for upholding the right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves and their loved ones,” said the NRA-ILA, which is the NRA’s legislative wing.
The NRA’s statement also claimed that states that close gun stores “are using the pandemic as an excuse to strip Americans of their fundamental right of self-defense.” But U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D.-Conn., speaking as a former attorney general, said there’s no constitutional violation in temporarily closing gun retailers.
“I see no constitutional issue here,” Blumenthal said. “The Second Amendment is the law of the land, but we’re not taking guns away from people, nor is there a permanent ban on gun sales.”
That theory has already been tested in Pennsylvania — where, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the state Supreme Court dismissed claims brought by gun rights’ advocates, who don’t want to see gun retailers close in that state.
Despite the court’s dismissal, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday allowed gun stores to reopen with limited hours and only through individual appointments, the Associated Press reported.
In other states, gun stores were never closed in the first place. The lockdowns in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Louisiana, West Virginia and Wisconsin all classify firearm retailers as “essential” business — and, with the exception of West Virginia, all of those states’ orders say verbatim that gun stores are necessary “for purposes of safety and security.”
Lamont’s order does not use that language.
While Blumenthal characterized Lamont as a strong advocate for the prevention of gun violence, he also said he doesn’t agree with keeping gun stores open.
“I’ve spoken with the governor about his decision and I respect and am immensely proud of his leadership during this time,” Blumenthal said. “We may just disagree on this issue.”
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