Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to not recognize gun stores as essential businesses isn’t going over well in many parts of the state.In fact, more than a dozen law enforcement officials, many of them county sheriffs, have sent a letter to Inslee outlining their concerns about shutting down gun shops across the state. According to the public safety officers, there are three reasons the governor needs to amend his stay-at-home order to allow gun stores to continue to operate.
1- Many of the law enforcement officials signing this letter leads a department that relies on local licensed firearms dealers for on- and off-duty firearms and ammunition. For many of us, we and our deputies routinely purchase firearms, ammunition, and other equipment from licensed firearms dealers. Your Order shuttering those businesses will prevent members of local law enforcement departments from continuing to do so, and threaten the continued operations of local law enforcement departments around the state.
2- your Order threatens the safety of thousands of Washington citizens. Every security business in the state relies on licensed dealers for firearms and ammunition, and your Order blocks their ability to procure the tools required to perform those jobs—jobs which your Order deems essential. It is essential that security businesses can procure the tools needed for their essential operations.
3- your Order unduly burdens the constitutional rights of the people of Washington. Licensed firearms dealers have already implemented stringent cleaning, sanitation, and social distancing rules to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their employees, and their customers. Closing licensed firearms dealers means terminating the ability of all Washington citizens to exercise the rights guaranteed to them by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 24 of the Washington Constitution. Under our laws, there is no alternative way to exercise these rights. Libraries have expanded digital access to books; schools are dedicating resources to online learning; our state’s medical professionals are expanding telemedicine. For citizens who elect to purchase a firearm, that can only be done in person, after a background check, in front of a licensed firearms dealer. It cannot be done remotely or online.
The sheriffs and police chiefs say it’s appropriate to require gun stores limit the number of customers and clean areas of the shop where customers and staff are interacting between each visit, but that simply shutting down the stores “violates the state and federal constitution, threatens the safety of our citizens, and threatens the smooth operation of many local law enforcement agencies.”
KOMO-TV in Seattle reports that, while Inslee’s order doesn’t include gun stores as “essential businesses,” it also doesn’t specifically say that gun stores must close. As a result, some shops are keeping their doors open.
“We’re still confused because we don’t have anything that’s actually documented,” said Tiffany Teasdale, owner of Lynnwood Gun. She said approximately 85% of her customers in recent weeks have been first-time gun owners.
“I have customers that come in and tell me, ‘Well, how are you guys open? Inslee said you’re not supposed to be.,’” she said. “I haven’t heard anything. I haven’t seen anything. I’ve contacted all of our local officers, I’ve contacted local police departments, the city, I’ve emailed many different agencies asking, ‘Well, do you have anything in writing that states gun shops can not be open?’”
Clearly there is high demand right now for the services gun stores are offering, both for civilians and members of law enforcement. Inslee does need to do the right thing here and amend his order to specifically include gun stores as essential businesses. If he doesn’t, the state’s public health crisis could be compounded by a public safety disaster.