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The NRA Wants You to Think Public Officials Can’t Close Gun Stores. The Courts Disagree.

April 7, 2020

The NRA and its affiliates have spent the last month filing lawsuits contending that the lawful closure of gun stores during the COVID-19 pandemic is “unconstitutional”––but over the last couple weeks, we’ve found out that multiple courts disagree: 

  • Yesterday, a federal court in California rejected the NRA’s argument that the Second Amendment requires state and local officials to keep gun stores open because, according to Bloomberg reporting, the NRA and the others bringing the suit “failed to convince a federal judge that the temporary closures of California gun shops prompted by the spread of the coronavirus was unconstitutional.” In a preliminary ruling on an ex parte request for a temporary restraining order, the judge added that “the city and county of Los Angeles didn’t overstep their authority given the significance of their aim to reduce the spread of the coronavirus and the appropriateness of store closures to achieve that aim.” The ruling can be found here
  • On March 31st, another federal court in California issued a ruling rejecting a similar ex parte request for a temporary restraining order reopening gun stores closed by a Ventura County emergency order. 
  • And on March 22nd, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected an effort to block the application of Pennsylvania’s emergency closure order to gun stores.

Shortly after yesterday’s ruling in California, Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law, responded:

“As the court recognized, the Second Amendment does not require officials to give gun stores special status or keep them open as they work to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” said Eric Tirschwell, managing director of Everytown Law.

The NRA and its affiliates have now filed suits in New York, New Jersey, and California. Everytown Law has responded to the NRA’s lawsuits in real time, issuing a public memo rebutting the gun lobby’s constitutional arguments: “The gun lobby claims that including gun stores in these closure orders impermissibly treats the Second Amendment as a ‘second-class right.’ But the truth is just the opposite. What the NRA and other gun groups are seeking instead is for Second Amendment rights to become super-rights, receiving a level of protection no other constitutional right enjoys.”

As detailed in Everytown Law’s analysis, emergency closure orders:

  • Affect thousands of businesses and are aimed at minimizing person-to-person contact and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
  • Do not specifically target guns or gun stores, just as they do not specifically target bookstores, political rallies, houses of worship or other locations that are being ordered closed notwithstanding their connection to constitutional rights.
  • Are examples of the sorts of generally-applicable rules that courts have held do not violate a constitutional right despite placing burdens on that right.

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