It’s been nearly a year since the first COVID lockdowns were imposed on “non-essential businesses” across the country, and some lawmakers in Arizona want to ensure that if those lockdowns ever return people will still have access to firearms and ammunition. The state Senate has approved a bill that would designate gun shops as essential businesses in any future state of emergency.
We saw several states last year declare that gun shops must close, which prompted lawsuits in several states. Masschusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, for instance, tried to shutter gun stores, but a federal judge squashed his order, ruling that our Second Amendment rights don’t disappear when a pandemic breaks out.
U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock said during a virtual hearing that the governor’s order infringed on residents’ Second Amendment rights and must be overturned, The Boston Globe reported.
“There is no justification here,” the judge said. “These plaintiffs … have constitutional rights that deserve respect and vindication. And it becomes necessary for a court to do that.”
Christopher Kielty, the owner of Precision Point Firearms in Woburn, said he felt attacked by the Baker administration’s initial decision.
“We don’t know why the governor made that quick decision to shut us down and why he singled us out,” Kielty said.
Attorney Jason Guida, who represents the gun shop owners, said the state never answered why gun shops were being treated differently than other businesses such as liquor stores.
Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham, and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy were among the other governors who demanded the closure of gun shops. California Gov. Gavin Newsom left the decision up to local governments; and gun shops in the city of Los Angeles, as well as Alameda County in the Bay Area and several other jurisdictions were forced to close for months.
The Republicans in Arizona’s state Senate don’t want to see that happen where they live.
Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers says the right to keep and bear arms must be protected, especially during emergencies.
Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada says the Legislature has much bigger priorities during the pandemic, such as ensuring people get access to unemployment insurance and don’t lose their homes.
Ensuring that folks can exercise their Second Amendment rights might not be a priority for Quezada, but given the millions of new gun owners across the country over the past year, the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense is clearly a top priority for many of us.
It’s a sad commentary on the state of the Democratic Party that the passage of this bill in the Senate was entirely along party lines. Not a single Democrat joined with Republicans to make sure that the constitutional rights of their constituents would remain intact in a state of emergency. This is a bill that should have enjoyed unanimous support, but instead it squeaked out of the state Senate and its fate in the House is uncertain, though Republicans do have a majority there as well.
My own personal philosophy is that every business is essential, particularly to the business owner and their employees. I don’t like the idea of the government picking and choosing what industries can continue to operate and which ones must shut down because of a public health crisis or a pandemic, but I absolutely despise the idea of cutting people off from their constitutionally-protected rights when they’re needed most. I’d rather the Arizona legislature declare that there’s no such thing as a non-essential business, but ensuring that gun shops can stay open is an alternative I can live with.
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