Senator: Gun stores should be deemed essential businesses; NRA sues Gov. Cuomo

Legislative Gazette file photo

Senator Robert Ortt wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging him to classify gun stores and “sporting shops” as essential businesses. Ortt argues that closing gun stores, and not allowing New Yorkers to access guns or ammunition, is violating their Second Amendment rights. 

“While taking proper public health precautions is necessary and appropriate, the Constitution is not nullified in the face of a pandemic, and the Second Amendment’s value still remains,” Ortt wrote his letter to Governor Cuomo. “New Yorkers still deserve the right to protect themselves, and allowing gun shops to operate would help New Yorkers exercise that right.” 

Ortt, a Republican from North Tonawanda, wants Cuomo to follow the example of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and allow gun stores to remain open during the virus outbreak, while taking similar precautions that other retailers are taking for their employees and customers. 

Governor Wolf initially closed gun shops but then reversed his decision after several Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices urged him to do so. Gun stores in Pennsylvania are allowed to be open under limited hours of operations, and shoppers have to make individual appointments to purchase firearms or ammo. 

“New York can and should open gun shops in a way that continues to protect New Yorkers from coronavirus,” Ortt wrote. “I believe gun shops in New York would be happy to comply with any public health recommendations, but closing them outright unnecessarily deprives New Yorkers of their Second Amendment right.” 

Sen. Robert Ortt

Due to rising fears of the COVID-19 pandemic, gun stores saw an increasing number of customers with a large spike in demand for firearms and ammo. After the closure of non-essential businesses across the country, which included gun stores, Second Amendment lobbyists turned to the White House in hopes of getting gun stores to be considered essential businesses, so they could keep up with customer demand. 

On March 28, the federal Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) issued a revised version of the list of essential businesses and workers which now includes gun stores; “Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges.” 

As of the time of publication, Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.6 was last updated on March 27, a day before the DOHS’s decision to include gun stores as essential businesses. The state’s list of essential businesses still does not include gun stores. 

On Thursday, the NRA  filed a lawsuit Gov. Cuomo, the New York’s Empire State Development agency and its acting commissioner Eric Gertler for the “pointless and arbitrary attack on the constitutional rights of New York citizens and residents” for closing gun stores.

Grocery stores, home improvement and hardware stores, pharmacies, banks, auto repair, pet supply stores, and many others remain open as essential businesses in New York. Under Cuomo’s executive order, non-essential businesses are to remain closed to the public, which includes gun stores.