The divide between gun control proponents and Second Amendment advocates may never have been better illustrated than by the controversy brewing right now over whether gun shops and shooting ranges should be allowed to remain open as “essential businesses” or closed while the “pandemic panic” continues.
One good place to observe the difference is in the reader reactions to a story that appeared in Monday’s online edition of the Seattle P-I.com, authored by liberal veteran political writer Joel Connelly. His piece focused on letters written to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee by 46 state lawmakers and more than a dozen sheriffs and police chiefs, urging Inslee to add gun stores to his list of “essential businesses.” Those letters may be read here, and here.
Gun-related businesses were significantly absent from the governor’s list, announced March 23, which did include marijuana stores and their employees.
“Washington is at the cusp of a nationwide debate over whether gun shops should stay open,” Connelly writes. “They were doing a land office business around the country in early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
That was an accurate description of the rush on gun stores when the Coronavirus panic hit. According to anecdotal evidence from various gun stores in different states, the lines around gun stores from coast to coast have included a lot of first-time gun buyers, many of whom have allegedly been stunned, and even disappointed, that firearms are not nearly as easy to legally purchase as gun control proponents have long insisted. There are the background checks, waiting periods and in a couple of states one actually needs to obtain a permit to purchase a handgun before he or she can actually go shopping.
As noted earlier by Liberty Park Press, the COVID-19 virus hasn’t ignored law enforcement or firefighters and other emergency responders. While there has not been the social breakdown that some had been hinting, it has come as no surprise to Second Amendment activists that when the pandemic was first declared that a lot of people who never before owned a gun—and may not have even wanted one around—fell back on the right to keep and bear arms.
Predictably, anti-gunners haven’t been happy about this, especially after the Trump Administration offered some “advisory” guidelines that included gun store employees as part of the “essential workforce.” One P-I reader reacted: “With the NRA and Trump running the coronavirus cure we’ll all die sooner! Guns as “essential services” my a$$. The NRA will use this as a fund-raiser now that the Russian rubles are drying up. On the other hand, if they all go shopping and fondle weapons in the stores maybe they can all become infected. I’m always trying to find the bright side ya know.”
Another reader responded, “And who’s complaining about this? Not Doctors or medical professionals. No, it’s gun control groups. Which tells you the motivation is purely political…”
While the debate rages, some gun dealers are remaining open while others in Washington State have closed their doors for the time being.
Whether Inslee and anti-gun state Attorney General Bob Ferguson will enforce a shutdown order against gun stores remains to be seen. They would almost certainly be hit with a federal civil rights lawsuit. Gun rights groups including the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition and National Rifle Association have filed several lawsuits in recent days, and local governments have taken notice. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy switched gears and is now allowing gun stores to operate. Delaware officials didn’t even try, and in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf voluntarily reversed course after apparently reading a very strong dissenting opinion issued by a justice on the state Supreme Court.
California officials are on the receiving end of a federal lawsuit, so there is a likelihood Inslee could face a legal challenge.
Washington State has one of the strongest state constitutional right-to-bear-arms provisions in the country. Since June 2010 and the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago—a SAF case—the Second Amendment has been incorporated to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment.
A pandemic is nasty business, no doubt about it. But a health crisis doesn’t outrank the Constitution, according to Second Amendment advocates. They’re demonstrating that, one lawsuit at a time.