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Firearms Industry, Opponents Squabble Over Whether Gun Stores ‘Essential’

The firearms industry and their supporters are asking state and federal officials to categorize gun stores as essential businesses so they can remain open during the shutdowns meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, reports the Wall Street Journal.

At the same, the long lines stretching outside gun stores around the country suggest many  Americans  agree. On March 16, background checks were up 300 percent compared with the same day last year, says the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF). The number of checks since Feb. 23 is twice as high as in 2019.

The rush for guns conflicts with state and local government orders to close up shop. Several states that issued shutdown orders, including California, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, didn’t include gun stores among businesses that can stay open.

NSSF has asked the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, governors and local officials to classify gun and ammunition dealers and manufacturers as essential businesses that must remain open, said the group’s Lawrence Keane.

“This is exactly when the Second Amendment right is most important, because people are concerned about the safety of their families, their property and their businesses,” he said.

Authorities in places like San Jose and Castro Valley, Ca., ordered stores to close after they refused.

“Since we don’t live in the Wild West, where people are dependent on guns for food, and we do have a well-functioning police department, it would be hard to articulate a basis for arguing that a gun shop would be an essential service,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Some states have kept gun stores open while ordering other businesses to close, including Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Connecticut.

In Pittsburgh, Pa., many of the would-be gun buyers lining up to buy firearms are first-time buyers, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Meanwhile, advocates of stricter gun control measures are stepping up their efforts to limit the spread of firearms during the crisis.

“It is crucial to resist the impulse to make decisions driven by fear and anxiety,” said the Center for American Progress in an essay entitled, “Four Reasons Not to Buy Guns in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”