Many Allegheny County, Pennsylvania gun stores are opening their doors today as the county government is asking all non-essential business to close for a period of several weeks. The Pittsburgh Tribune spoke to several gun store owners who say their business is essential, especially in a time of uncertainty.

John Anderson, owner of Delmont Sport Shop in Delmont, said he does not plan to close his shop as he views it as essential.

“We’re essential to keep life, liberty and the freedom of happiness,” Anderson said.

The Keystone Shooting Center in Marshall Township posted Monday on Facebook that it was aware of Allegheny County’s request to close all nonessential businesses but it planned to stay open.

“After food and shelter, there is no greater need or necessity than the ability to protect oneself and one’s loved ones,” the Keystone Shooting Center wrote.

The center said it was taking extra precautions such as disinfecting equipment and giving their employees the option to work at home.

I have been encouraging as many people as possible to stay home and stay away from others, but I don’t have a problem with these stores remaining open. Yes, many retail establishments, bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues are shutting their doors, but John Anderson is right when he says that access to firearms and ammunition is essential to keeping life and liberty protected.

Meanwhile, though the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office is suspending the processing of concealed carry licenses for at least two weeks, the staff were working as hard as possible on Monday to process as many permit applications as possible before closing their doors to the public.

“We’re taking a cautious approach to the virus and the amount of people that are coming to the office,” Kraus said. “We just felt it’s in the best interest of health and safety.”

Even before the closure was announced, nearly 100 people had gotten permits Monday morning. The number had reached 150 by 2 p.m.

Kraus said the office averages 40 to 70 permits a day.

Shortly before 1 p.m., there were more than a dozen people in a line that stretched into the courthouse courtyard.

Dan Budday, of Pleasant Hills, said he let his license lapse years ago.

“It just seemed like a good time with everything that’s going on and everything closing,” he said.

While many gun stores in the Pittsburgh area are staying open, the state-run liquor stores in Pittsburgh and throughout the state will be closing Tuesday by order of Gov. Tom Wolf.

Board Chairman Tim Holden said in a statement that he knew store closings will hurt consumers and licensees, but that fighting the public health crisis must take priority.

Wolf already ordered the stores to shut down after Monday in four counties in our area – Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery – where he had said there was “confirmed evidence of risk.”

Stores in those four counties first drew large crowds over the weekend, and the liquor control board said processing and delivery of online orders would be delayed because of unusually high order volume.

The liquor control board, however, said it would adopt “lenient measures” to allow licencees to sell beer and wine to go, for off-premises consumption.

Retail licensees, including restaurants, bars, hotels, grocery stores and convenience stores, also may continue selling beer or wine to go, while breweries, wineries and distilleries can continue selling their own products for off-premises consumption, it said.

I’m not sure why the state is closing liquor stores but allowing breweries, wineries, and distilleries to remain open, but if providing booze is an essential service, then providing Pennsylvanians with the means to defend themselves is also absolutely essential to the safety and security of residents.