Second Amendment activists in Massachusetts staged a rolling protest in several towns on Friday over the emergency order by Gov. Charlie Baker that refuses to recognize gun stores as essential businesses. The protest stopped at gun stores in Palmer, Belchertown, Holyoke, West Springfield, and Springfield as dozens of supporters sought to highlight the impact that the closures have had on the right to keep and bear arms.
“How can you bear arms without buying [arms],” said Andrew Couture, an attorney specializing in gun rights. “There are many police forces across the state that have officers that are sick at home. People need to be able to defend themselves. They need to be able to defend their house, their property and their families, you know by closing this down and making [the] operation of a gun store is illegal is in complete violation of what the Second Amendment stands for.”
He’s not wrong. Baker’s order is not only stopping people from purchasing a firearm for the first time, but is also curtailing the ability of existing gun owners to purchase ammunition. Richard Howell, who helped organize the protest, says it’s unfathomable that Baker would keep gun stores closed despite guidance from the federal Department of Homeland Security declaring that gun shops are a critical part of the nation’s workforce.
“Why are these gun stores closed? You know, they’ve been deemed an essential service nationwide. The governor even agreed with initially, now he doesn’t agree with it. The attorney general never agreed with it,” said Howell. “There’s something going on there.”
I don’t think there’s any shadowy conspiracy taking place between Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey. Both of them are acting in character with their anti-Second Amendment decisions. Not only has Baker ordered gun stores shut down, but Healey’s office has ordered all ranges to shut down as well, and is even prohibiting firearms instructors from offering online training.
Baker on April 1 said gun shops could open as essential businesses, then reversed that decision shortly after Healey took to social media. She tweeted, “Guns shops and shooting ranges are NOT essential businesses during a public emergency. We cannot undermine the safety of our police officers, first responders, and domestic violence victims.”
Within hours, Baker’s list of essential businesses was retooled and gun shops were forced to close. A few stayed open because of the confusion or in defiance, and they made money, Couture said. Gun sales were on the rise as word of the pandemic spread, and, Couture said, people want to protect themselves in the current climate.
“The virus is going on and police are highly susceptible to becoming infected,” he said. “If they’re quarantined, they can’t do their job. If they can’t respond … or there are delays, what does that mean to the average homeowner?”
Couture also notes that, while the governor and attorney general are ordering gun stores to close, the shops aren’t eligible for any state funds aimed at helping non-essential businesses survive the shutdown order. It looks like the Baker and Healey are hoping that when the coronavirus crisis passes, most of the state’s gun stores won’t be in a financial position to re-open at all.
In the meantime, many Massachusetts residents are now driving across the border to New Hampshire in the hopes of purchasing a gun, but Mike Goyette, who works at a gun shop not far from the state line, says they’re walking away disappointed and disillusioned.
“I would say besides my regular customers, the new firearm purchases were 70% of the sales,” he said. “We’re right here on the Massachusetts border, and we had a lot of people coming up from Mass., with their driver’s licenses, thinking they could purchase firearms. They were shocked to learn that depending on their town in Massachusetts, it could be a minimum of four, five, six months to even get just the permit to purchase. People couldn’t believe it.”
Goyette said a Massachusetts selectman came to Pete’s to purchase a firearm and expected that he would be able to do so and walk out of the store the same day with a gun.
“He was from a small town and he was all upset,” Goyette said. “He didn’t have his permits. I told him, ‘this is the law in your state. You guys are the ones that voted in these people.’”
Massachusetts voters did bring this mess upon themselves, but hopefully, the courts will step in to rectify the egregious abuse of the Second Amendment rights of residents, and voters can turn out anti-gun lawmakers in the state’s November elections.