After an outcry by lawmakers and gun rights advocates, Governor John Carney has amended the closure rule for gun shops in Delaware during the coronavirus pandemic.
The section in the list of essential and non-essential businesses – Sporting Goods, Hobby, Book, & Music Store – there is now a note which reads:
“Firearms dealers may conduct sales of firearms, ammunition, and other goods directly related to responsible firearm storage and maintenance, by appointment only. No more than two appointments per half hour shall occur, and sellers are limited to operating during normal working hours they operated on prior to the State of Emergency. Any seller who violates such directive may be subject to criminal prosecution or other civil enforcement remedies up to and including arrest or the involuntary closure of the business”
Delaware Republican lawmakers are expressing opposition to the Governor’s decision to close gun stores in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gun rights advocates across the state were outraged when they learned that gun shops and stores that exclusively sell firearms were deemed non-essential and would be closing at the direction of Governor Carney.
Now, lawmakers are speaking out and weighing in, including State Senator Brian Pettyjohn who called the decision “problematic” and said the state’s consitution protects the right of Delawareans to possess and obtain firearms.
“You’re going to have people that aren’t prepared that may not have bought some extra food or some things that are going to want to try to take from others what they did not get themselves,” Sen. Pettyjohn said. “Self defense is key here, and it’s one of the things that we have in our constitution that allows you, guarantees you that right to keep and bear arms here in Delaware. So, having the gun stores shut down is problematic in my view.”
Also expressing opposition to the Governor’s decision was State Representative Steve Smyk who said business has been booming for gun shops across the state since the pandemic began.
“Gun background checks were 300% increased just because of this virus,” Rep. Smyk said. “There’s a whole lot of business going on. I’ve got two inside my district, and one’s owned by very good friends of mine outside my district, and they’ve had inventory disappear. I don’t see why those guys are not essential.”
At least one gun store that WGMD is aware of was issued a cease and desist notice after they continued to operate after the order went into effect on Tuesday.
StarQuest Shooters & Survival Supply in Wilmington claims they were issued a cease and desist order by the Delaware Emergency Managment Agency ordering them to close the store on Tuesday.
“We have a very strict MAX 10 person in the store at one time policy. I even hired additional security to enforce this policy at the door,” the store wrote on social media. “I hired a full time cleaner to wipe down with de-sanitizer each and every pen that’s used to fill out 4473’s as well as all surfaces constantly throughout the day.”
WGMD News reached out to the store’s owner who declined an interview at this time, but did say that their shop was the only one to be issued a cease and desist order as of Tuesday evening.
“We were the only gunshop in Delaware given this order, so we have to see what type of legal action against the Governor we are going to take at this point,” the owner said in response to our interview request.
Governor John Carney appeared on WGMD LIVE with Mike Bradley on Monday where he was asked about the decision to exclude gun stores from the list of essential businesses.
“I wasn’t part of the process for determining what was essential and what was not,” Governor Carney said. “My only guess is that it was a combination of maybe the fact that they’re not immediately essential, obviously not withstanding Second Amendment rights there.”
Governor Carney then went on to say that he saw crowds at gun stores and as a result it could have influenced the decision to close the establishments for the time being.
“I saw pictures of crowds in front of gun stores, in gun stores, and that type of thing and so that could have played into it,” Governor Carney added. “That’s something we can obviously take a look at.”
Moving forward, legal challenges will be considered by Second Amendement advocates if the stores are not permitted to reopen.