On May 7, a federal district judge in Massachusetts ended the state’s unconstitutional shutdown of gun stores. Judge Douglas P. Woodlock issued a preliminary injunction against Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R) order that had forbidden gun stores from selling firearms or ammunition to anyone except law-enforcement officers.
Like governors in most other states, Baker initially followed federal guidance on March 31 by allowing firearms businesses to stay open, provided they complied with safety guidelines like those for other essential businesses. But he reversed this very decision that same day after receiving calls from Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo, a staunch anti-gun advocate. The order took effect at noon the following day and firearms businesses were not on the list of what was allowed to stay open.
To add insult to injury, less than two hours after the order took effect, anti-gun Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted: “Gun shops and shooting ranges are NOT essential businesses during a public health emergency. We cannot undermine the safety of our police officers, first responders, and domestic violence victims
Lawsuits against this flagrant violation of constitutional rights were filed on April 9. The NRA, along with its Massachusetts state affiliate, the Gun Owners Action League, filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs. Oral argument on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction were held on May 4 and May 7. Woodlock announced his decision from the bench, and issued a preliminary injunction ending the Massachusetts gun ban.
A preliminary injunction is a judicial order issued before a full trial has taken place. Preliminary injunctions are issued when the plaintiffs have shown that they have a strong possibility of winning the case on the merits at trial, that they will be irreparably harmed if an injunction is not issued, and that the public interest would be served by issuing the injunction at an early stage.
As soon as Woodlock ruled, the Massachusetts attorney general’s lawyers asked the judge to “stay” (temporarily suspend) his order. The judge refused to do so.
During the oral arguments, the attorney general’s lawyers claimed that Massachusetts residents could still buy ammunition, since Walmart, which sells ammunition, was allowed to stay open. But Walmart does not sell handgun ammunition and won’t even sell rifle ammunition in politically incorrect calibers such as .223.
Further, said the attorney general’s lawyers, Massachusetts residents could buy guns from private individuals, rather than from stores. But not everyone who needs a firearm knows an individual who would sell them a firearm. Unlike private sellers, gun stores have inventories of many different types of firearms, and can order items not currently in stock, so the customer can purchase a gun with the best ergonomics and other characteristics suited for the particular individual.
The attorney general’s lawyers faced the impossible task of explaining why firearms stores suddenly had to be closed when other retailers—such as hardware stores and liquor stores—were allowed to stay open.
Pursuant to Woodlock’s order, firearms retailers may operate as long as they comply with specific safety rules, such as taking customers only by appointment, serving no more than four customers per hour, requiring masks for customers and employees, and using sanitizers.
The lawsuit had also challenged the shutdown of gun ranges. Woodlock did not immediately rule on that issue; he explained that he needed more time to study the safety issues specifically related to ranges.
You can be sure that if Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden were President, the federal government would have used the pandemic as a pretext to shut down all firearms businesses nationwide. Clinton or Biden certainly would not have taken any affirmative steps to protect Second Amendment rights. And a President Clinton or Biden would never select judges like Douglas Woodlock, who was appointed in 1986 by President Reagan.