Some Don’t Think Your Rights Are “Essential”

posted on March 27, 2020
Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

Is the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights “essential” to our freedom? Yes—unequivocally and emphatically, yes.

Aren’t, then, the stores that sell the very tool this constitutional right protects essential, especially during a national crisis? Certainly; in fact, these questions were answered affirmatively by those who fought to free this great nation, by our first statesmen who wrote and ratified the U.S. Bill of Rights and by every generation since.

Nevertheless, some politicians don’t think our tools of freedom, which is what guns are, are essential.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (D), for example, announced plans to close all of the gun stores in his county, with the coronavirus pandemic as his excuse. But then, less than 24 hours later, the sheriff reversed course, apparently after “the county’s top lawyer put out a legal opinion that she believes gun stores are essential businesses and should remain open,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

Sheriff Villanueva said on Twitter that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) would “determine what qualifies” as an “essential” business.

Sheriff Villanueva, however, soon reversed course again after California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declined to answer, in a news conference, whether he believes gun stores are “essential.” Newsom said it was up to local sheriffs to decide. Sheriff Villanueva quickly used this opening to rule that gun stores can’t sell to the general public, but can only sell firearms to security companies.

So Sheriff Villanueva’s latest ban specifically targets individuals, as in law-abiding private citizens whose rights are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Sheriff Villanueva’s order applies to Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas and to the cities that contract with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement. 

Meanwhile, in the city of Los Angeles, officials have also deemed gun shops to be nonessential and have ruled that they must close, according to City Attorney Mike Feuer. Feuer actually said that only “life-sustaining” businesses, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, can be open. “There’s nothing essential about being able to purchase a new handgun,” he said. This, of course, goes against common sense and practice, as the number-one reason American citizens buy handguns is for personal defense—in other words, to sustain their lives.

This same battle is now being waged in many parts of this great nation.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) issued a city-wide shutdown, but then quickly exempted liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries. He didn’t do that for gun stores even though so many people have been buying guns that the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has been overwhelmed with calls from gun-store employees checking to see if customers are clear to purchase firearms.

Meanwhile, around the nation, the NRA has been working to keep gun stores open.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) recent Executive Order 2020-12 designates “firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security” as “essential,” exempting them from being shut down during this state of emergency.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) recent Executive Order 7H designates firearm and ammunition retail operations as essential businesses, exempting them from being shut down during this state of emergency.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) Executive Order 20-08 designates “firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security” under Essential Businesses and Operations, exempting them from being shut down during this state of emergency.

In Pennsylvania, gun stores will remain open on a limited basis after Gov. Tom Wolf (D) reversed course on his emergency coronavirus shut-down order.

In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) recently issued Executive Order 53 temporarily places restrictions on numerous businesses across the state. Though it does not designate firearm and ammunition retailers as “essential retail businesses,” gun dealers “may continue to operate but must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment … with proper social distancing requirements.”

In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice’s (D) recent Executive Order No. 9-20 designates “firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers” under “Essential Businesses and Operations,” exempting them from being shut down during this state of emergency.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) Emergency Order #12, titled “Safer at Home,” designates “firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security” under “Essential Businesses and Operations,” exempting them from being shut down during this state of emergency.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has made it impossible for Garden Staters who wish to obtain firearms for self-defense to do so. After Murphy put out an executive order, the New Jersey State Police issued the following message to gun stores: “On Saturday March 21, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy announced he is putting New Jersey in lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus. Per Executive Order 107, he is ordering the residents of New Jersey to stay home, directing all non-essential retail businesses closed to the public. At this time, the order includes New Jersey Firearms State Licensed Dealers. The New Jersey State Police NICS Unit is directing the vendor of the NICS Online Application (NICUSA) to turn off the NICS Online Services for submitting NICS transactions by eliminating the “Request Form” button, effective 9:00pm EST, Saturday, March 21, 2020.

These are only some of the examples of these battles for your rights now taking place across the U.S. For more up-to-date and comprehensive news on state and local closures go to

Whether the Second Amendment, and therefore the stores that sell the guns and ammunition that enable this constitutional right, is essential was actually answered by the U.S. Supreme Court in Heller v. D.C. (2008). In its majority opinion, the court said, “The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government—even the Third Branch of Government—the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon.”

In other words, the “essential” nature of the Second Amendment was protected from government infringement when the U.S. Bill of Rights was ratified over two centuries ago. This right is fundamental—during local or national emergencies, this right must especially be protected so good citizens can stay safe and secure.


Doug Hamlin, Executive Vice President & CEO
Doug Hamlin, Executive Vice President & CEO

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