Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has ordered that all “non-essential” businesses in the city close, and his list of essential businesses that are allowed to continue to operate is missing something that a lot of city residents consider absolutely essential at the moment; access to firearms and ammunition for self defense.
On Tuesday, the city released an updated list of examples of businesses deemed essential, and bike shops made the cut:
- Supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, convenience stores, and mini markets
- Restaurants and food vendors providing food through online, delivery, pickup or walk-in
- Hardware stores and stores supplying construction materials
- Gas stations, auto repair shops, and bicycle stores
- Post Offices
- Stores selling general merchandise and household consumer products
- Laundromats and dry cleaners
- Veterinary clinics and pet stores
- Home/Commercial building repairs
How on earth are dry cleaners considered “essential” and gun stores are considered non-essential businesses? Additionally, Philly magazine reports the mayor is allowing “key infrastructure” businesses to remain open as well.
- Construction services
- Transportation services (including Uber and Lyft)
- Delivery services
- Waste collection
- Security services
- News media
While security services are still allowed to operate, the city says that gun stores aren’t essential, and they’ve been told to close. In other words, if you can pay to outsource your personal protection, you’re just fine. If you have to do it yourself, on the other hand, you’re out of luck, at least if you’re not currently a gun owner.
Some gun store owners, however, are vowing to keep their doors open, though stock may be limited and background checks are running behind due to the incredible demand seen over the past several days.
At Lock’s Gun Store, only two customers at a time are being allowed inside, and Philly magazine reports that no guns were being sold Wednesday morning as employees tried to work through the backlog of background checks.
According to [owner John] Lock, business has been “booming.” He says the same is true for some of the other gun stores in Philadelphia that are still open.
“We’ve seen a huge, huge increase in Asian American customers,” Lock told us. “Do you remember after 9/11, all of the violence against people who had nothing to do with what happened? They were attacking 7-Elevens and gas stations. Asian American customers are scared. Even though this has nothing to do with them.”
On Wednesday morning, City Hall spokesperson Mike Dunn said the city is beginning “enforcement on all non-essential businesses through written correspondence.” He added that officials are “optimistic about compliance.”
Lock said he hasn’t heard anything from the city and says he doesn’t expect to stop selling guns anytime soon.
“They can’t order us to shut down,” said a Lock’s employee standing nearby. “They can only strongly advise. We are a gun store. This is about civil rights.”
Indeed it is, and if the city does try to order the store closed, I hope John Lock files suit immediately. The long lines outside his doors indicate that he’s offering essential services to Philadelphia residents, even if Mayor Kenney doesn’t approve.
In fact, the long lines aren’t the only evidence that Pennsylvanians are extremely interested in exercising their right to keep and bear arms at the moment. According to the Pennsylvania State Police, background checks on Tuesday of this week were nearly four times the normal volume, even with two outages to the Pennsylvania Instant Check System.
Despite the downtime, PICS completed 4,342 transactions on Tuesday, compared to 1,359 transactions on the corresponding Tuesday in March 2019. Transactions include background checks for purchases, transfers, evidence returns and license to carry applications.
“The Pennsylvania State Police is working with its vendor to increase processing power to avoid future backlogs and will adjust staffing as needed to meet demand,” Dance said. “Rumors circulating on social media that PICS has been shut down as part of the commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic are false. PICS is, and will remain, operational.”
One local gun store owner says that the closure of a huge gun show in Philadelphia last weekend is helping to spur on the long lines outside of Philadelphia-area gun stores.
“We call that the tax rebate special show because everyone comes with their tax refund and spends it there,” [Ten-X Sport Shot owner Sean] Clark said. “There are 2,000 federally licensed dealers there. That has forced people to the mom and pop shops.”
If the Eagle Arms Gun Show had taken place this past weekend, perhaps we’d see slightly shorter lines at gun stores in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs today, but I doubt it. The demand right now is so high that one gun show isn’t going to be enough to satisfy every resident who wants to purchase a firearm and/or ammunition.