The gun ban lobby is livid following the Trump administration’s decision to add firearms dealers and manufactures to its list of essential services that should remain open during the COVID-19 crisis.
Politicians and law enforcement officials across the country tried to close gun shops and manufacturers as part of the nationwide shutdown, but the pro-gun community fought back by threatening lawsuits and asking the White House to protect the Second Amendment rights of American citizens.
This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added “workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges” to its list of essential critical infrastructure workforce.
The anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety immediately attacked the move in a letter to the DHS, arguing that “firearms won’t make people safer in the face of this pandemic.”
“The gun industry has been fear-mongering to stoke gun sales throughout this pandemic, pedaling a fiction that the only way to stay safe right now is to buy a gun — even in a time when there are troubling indicators of increased risk of domestic gun violence and gun suicide,” the letter states.
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, accused the National Rifle Association of spreading the lie that COVID-19 could be killed with a firearm.
“There’s no reason why gun dealers should be deemed as essential as police, first responders, and hospital workers––people who are risking everything to save lives,” he said in a press release. “While there is much we don’t know about COVID-19, this much is clear: guns don’t make you safer from it. Because despite what the NRA would like you to believe, you can’t shoot a virus.”
Gun rights groups applauded the move. The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) noted that the military, law enforcement, and private citizens all rely on gun makers to supply firearms for protection in times of crisis.
“We have seen over the past week hundreds of thousands, even millions of Americans choosing to exercise their right to keep and bear arms to ensure their safety and the safety of loved ones during these uncertain times,” said Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for NSSF. “Americans must not be denied the ability to exercise that right to lawfully purchase and acquire firearms during times of emergency.”
Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb also praised the Trump administration and hypothesized that the coronavirus threat has forced Americans to reconsider the importance of the Second Amendment.
“It could be that the American public, by heading to gun shops and sporting goods stores as the Coronavirus panic spread, reminded government officials what the Second Amendment is really about,” Gottlieb observed. “Even people who never before owned a firearm rushed to buy one as the pandemic has spread. Instinctively, people headed to those places where they could buy guns and ammunition, which underscores just how essential those businesses really are.”
Even though the guidance from the DHS is not legally binding, it appears to be having its desired effect. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who had previous ordered gun stores closed and discouraged residents from purchasing firearms, reversed his decision on Monday.
“Based on further input from the federal government, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not order or recommend closure of businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition,” Villanueva said in a written statement.
The sheriff admitted that the DHS guideline was an advisory only, but “…nonetheless, the federal memorandum is persuasive given the its national scope.”