While most states across the country have declared gun stores to be essential businesses and are allowing the shops to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, governors in Washington State, Massachusetts, and New York are still maintaining that the shops are non-essential and should remain closed. In each of those states, however, some gun stores are vowing to remain open, in spite of the current shelter-in-place language.

Tiffany Teasdale owns Lynwood Gun in Lynwood, Washington, and says she’s relying on guidance from the Department of Homeland Security to keep her shop open for customers.

Teasdale says she’s selling all kinds of products with her store busy all day — while practicing social distancing. But she never expected to get so many previously anti-gun customers during the coronavirus shutdown.

“We’re getting a lot of people who voted against guns that are now coming in to purchase firearms, and now they’re getting really upset because there’s a 10-day waiting period on almost all guns and they voted for it,” Teasdale said. “But now it’s coming back to haunt them because they tell us they’re a good person [who shouldn’t have to wait].”

Meanwhile, a gun store in Massachusetts has been hit with a cease-and-desist letter after its owner continued to operate after Gov. Charlie Baker ignored that DHS guidance and ordered all firearms retailers in the state to shut down last week. The Gunrunnner, co-owned by John Costa, was busy with new customers as well, at least until the local order came down.

Town Manager Bob Nunes confirmed that the Middleborough health officer issued the retailer an order on Thursday.

“While we certainly feel for our business community that has been impacted, this unprecedented global health crisis is no time to defy the governor’s orders and everyone has a part to play in helping to slow the spread of this deadly disease,” Nunes said in a statement. “We will be issuing cease and desist orders to any non-essential businesses that keep their brick and mortar facilities open while the governor’s orders are in effect and have already done so for two gun shops in town.”

The shop’s website indicates the store is still open for business, though with social distancing measures in place.

In New York, some gun stores have found a way to re-open after Gov. Andrew Cuomo declined to declare gun stores essential businesses. According to Cuomo’s order, any businesses with only one employee are exempt from his order, and now several one-man shops are opening their stores again after reading the fine print.

“I closed and then I came right back up online,” Mr. Crump said. “People have to feel a sense of security that they can protect themselves. We offer a viable service to the community.”

There is a possible complication to one-person operations reopening. The state’s Empire State Development department has the same guidance on the PAUSE order on its website. It’s essentially a carbon-copy of what the governor’s news release said on March 20, however the single-employee restriction Mr. Crump is citing is not there. The department’s website said on Saturday that it was last updated March 27, nearly a week after the guidance was posted.

The Times has reached out to the department for clarification.

“I am going to stay open until someone in power comes and tells me ‘you have to close,’” he said, “and then we’ll proceed from there with the documentation I have.”

He also said he’s in the process of installing an industrial sewing machine to his shop to start manufacturing protective masks for the community.

“I don’t know how it’s going to come out,” Mr. Crump said, “but you have to attempt it.”
I wish him luck. Crump and other gun stores may benefit from the new lawsuit filed by the NRA against Cuomo’s order, but in the meantime these stores do run the risk of sanction by governors or local officials if they remain open for business. It’s a gutsy move, but I think it’s the right one for these stores to make.