New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy abruptly reversed course on Monday and announced that gun stores in the Garden State, which have been closed for nearly two weeks, will now be allowed to re-open for business, though with modified hours and by appointment only to ensure social distancing policies.
The move by Murphy came just hours after officials with gun control groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action called on governors around the nation to follow Murphy’s lead and order gun stores to close. Murphy’s original stay-at-home order issued on March 21st required gun stores to shut down, and the commandant of the New Jersey State police followed suit soon after and stopped conducting background checks on firearms transfers.
That in turn led to lawsuits by the Second Amendment Foundation, the Firearms Policy Coalition, the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, and the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs, which challenged Murphy’s temporary ban on the legal acquisition of firearms as violations of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
Murphy had voiced his defiance to the lawsuits in recent days, even going to so far as to say the closing of gun stores was a good thing. At a press conference last week, the governor was asked about the fact that there was no legal way for New Jersey residents to acquire a firearm at the moment.
“A safer society for my taste has fewer guns and not more guns,” Murphy said Wednesday at his daily coronavirus press briefing. “The guns that do exist are at the hands of the right people, particularly trained members of law enforcement.
“Crime has been down and let’s hope it stays down, but we’re very comfortable where we landed on that,” he continued, referring to his decision not to classify gun stores as essential businesses.
That was less than a week ago. What changed? Well, the Department of Homeland Security released new guidance on critical members of the workforce over the weekend, and the firearms industry, from manufacturers down to retailers, were included as essential workers. In fact Murphy told reporters on Monday that’s the reason he’s modifying his original order.
“It wouldn’t be my definition but that’s the definition at the federal level and I didn’t get a vote on that,” Murphy said at his press briefing on Monday.
The gun shops may re-open “by appointment only and under limited hours,” Murphy said. He said the state would continue to enforce its regulations on gun sales.
It looks like Murphy is taking a page from Gov. Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania, who also originally didn’t include gun stores in his list of essential businesses, but backed off after several justices on the state Supreme Court opined that Wolf’s order was unconstitutional, and suggested allowing stores to operate by appointment only during the current emergency.
This is great news for would-be gun owners in the Garden State, though I suspect if the limited hours are too restrictive, we may see additional litigation in the days ahead. Gov. Phil Murphy is no friend to gun owners, and his decision to allow gun stores to re-open wasn’t made out of respect for the rights of residents. A huge thank you is owed to all of the organizations that brought suit against Murphy, as well as the organizations that worked to get the DHS guidance on critical workers modified to include the firearms industry. Without those steps, I have no doubt that gun stores in New Jersey would still be dark today, instead of busy with staff and employees prepping to open their doors tomorrow.
This is also a huge loss for gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action. Even as they’re trying to convince governors to close gun stores, one of the few who actually did so reversed course. It’s another sign that their messaging of “gun safety means don’t own a gun” is out of step with the feelings of most Americans right now. At a crucial time in our nation’s history, the so-called gun safety groups are demanding that any American who doesn’t already own a gun be prevented from buying one legally.
There’s nothing “common sense” about that, and it certainly doesn’t indicate any support for the Second Amendment. All of their careful crafted “moderate” messaging is being thrown out the window in favor of a campaign to keep Americans from their most fundamental rights in a crisis, and I believe that they’re doing lasting harm to their brand with their blatant attempts to prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves and their families with a firearm.