Good morning, Bulletin readers. As local reports of surging firearms sales continue, gun industry associations and legal groups have been working to ensure that gun stores continue to serve customers even when most other retail business are shuttered. Catch up on the latest developments in your midweek roundup.

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Firearms industry trade group lobbies to keep gun stores open. The head of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) told The Wall Street Journal he had been pressing federal and state officials to allow gun shops to remain open despite stay-at-home decrees that have shuttered retailers around the country. The feds already consider gunmakers with law enforcement or defense clients to be essential businesses; the NSSF has been pushing for a “critical infrastructure” designation for the entire firearms industry. We’ve been tracking which states have exempted gun stores from closure orders and which others have deemed them non-essential and ordered them to stop sales. But the situation remains fluid: 

  • In California, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department began closing gun shops one by one yesterday, but abandoned the effort less than 12 hours later after guidance from the county’s counsel that they could remain open under the state’s stay home order.
  • In Pennsylvania, a lawsuit challenging gun store closures was narrowly rejected by the state Supreme Court. But the governor has quietly allowed gun dealers to reopen for individual appointments during limited hours. 

Gun rights group sues New Jersey over stopping gun sales. Yesterday, Champe Barton reported how Garden State authorities coupled the closure of gun dealers with shutting down the state’s background check system, making legal sales impossible during the pause. Now, a gun-rights group has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to reverse the policy. One New Jersey gun dealer found a partial work-around: The governor’s shutdown order allows for online ordering and delivery of goods. So the federally licensed dealer is ferrying ammunition (which in New Jersey, like most states, does not require its own background check) directly to customers, he told a gun-rights blog.

NEW from THE TRACE: A timeline of the NRA’s scare tactics during national emergencies. The National Rifle Association’s new video, which uses the coronavirus pandemic to argue that guns are essential to protecting Americans from the threat of public disorder, is part of its longstanding messaging playbook.

Attorney general to federal officials: Pandemic won’t stop gun cases. The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. Attorney General William Barr last week sent a memo to prosecutors and agents tackling violent crime, urging them to continue with their gun cases. “I am worried about things getting out of control,” he wrote, according to the Journal. Jurisdictions across the country have cut down on imprisonment and arrests in an attempt to ease the spread of virus infection. Barr has frequently decried actions by local progressive prosecutors to reduce convictions for low-level offenders, including gun offenses.


Before the coronavirus crisis, a survey found that an estimated 4.6 million American children and teens live in a home where at least one gun is kept loaded and unsecured. The Trace