The NRA wants firearm and ammunition retailers to be categorized as “essential services.”
The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) is suing New York for shuttering gun stores amidst the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
New York, by far the hardest hit part of the nation, accounts for over a third of the 330,000 active coronavirus cases in the United States. On March 20th, state Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) issued a stay-at-home order, prohibiting non-essential businesses from operating until further notice.
Cuomo’s order and later guidance, notes CNN, say that firearm dealers aren’t “essential.”
And that—unsurprisingly—has attracted the NRA’s ire. In their lawsuit, filed over the weekend, the National Rifle Association alleges that New York has “effectively and indefinitely suspended a key component of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution” by forcing gun stores to close down.
“This is clearly another assault by Gov. Cuomo on the NRA, on the rights of New Yorkers to defend themselves and their families, and on our 2A freedoms,” NRA founder and chief executive Wayne LaPierre wrote on Twitter last week. “NRA will continue to fight all such attacks.”
According to CNN, New York’s stance is somewhat at odds with the federal government’s take. While Washington has suggested that firearm and ammunition retail can be construed as an “essential service,” their guidelines are advisory—meaning that states can “add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion.”
The NRA, though, isn’t hold back: its lawsuit targets Cuomo not just as governor, but individually. It also names the New York Empire State Development agency and its director as additional defendants.
“By closing down federally licensed dealers, Defendants have cut off the only way of legally purchasing firearms in the state,” the lawsuit says. “As a result of the government’s overreach, most New Yorkers have no legal way to exercise the constitutional right to purchase arms or ammunition.”
Indeed, firearm sales have soared nationwide as coronavirus continues to upend American lives—a fact which the NRA is acutely aware of.
In its complaint, the National Rifle Association prioritizes firearm ownership above public health; it also makes an attempt at fear-mongering, referencing local decisions to release vulnerable, low-risk inmates into home quarantine.
“The current public health emergency does not justify impeding the exercise of Second Amendment rights,” the NRA said in its suit, “especially during a time when many New Yorker shave valid concerns about the ability of the government to maintain order—and criminals are being prematurely released form jails.”
Kris Brown, president of gun-control advocacy group Brady, told CNN that New York is legally allowed to close firearm stores as it combats coronavirus.
“The Second Amendment, like all amendments in the Bill of Rights, is balanced by concerns of public safety and health,” Brown said. “Right now, those concerns necessitate the closure of many businesses, including the need to forbid large gatherings, which are rights otherwise protected by the First Amendment. The Second Amendment does not supersede the First, nor does it override the need to stop the spread of coronavirus.”
Cuomo, to his credit, didn’t seem very concerned by the NRA’s lawsuit.
“I think I’ve seen sued by the NRA, must be a dozen times,” Cuomo said at a press conference on Saturday. “I didn’t even know I was sued this time. You become sort of lawsuit immune. I wish I could become immune to this virus the way I’ve become immune to NRA lawsuits.”