NRA sues NY during coronavirus over gun shops' 'nonessential' classification

March was record-breaking month for gun background checks

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The National Rifle Association is suing New York officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for declaring gun stores in the state “nonessential” and in effect limiting residents’ access to guns and ammunition amid the new coronavirus shelter-in-place order, court papers show.

“There isn’t a single person who has ever used a gun in self-defense who would consider it nonessential.”

- NRA CEO ad Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre

“The right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, in part, to give Americans the ability to defend themselves and their families,” said William A. Brewer III, counsel for the NRA, in a statement. “The current public health emergency does not justify the complete elimination of this right, especially during a time when many New Yorkers have valid concerns.”

People wait in line to enter a gun store in Culver City, Calif., March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

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The lawsuit, filed Thursday, names Cuomo, the state’s Department of Economic Development and its president, Eric Gertler.

The NRA further argues a “core purpose” of the right to bear arms is self-defense, “during a time when many New Yorkers have valid concerns about the ability of the government to maintain order—and criminals are being prematurely released from jails,” the suit states.

Cuomo “effectively and indefinitely suspended a key component of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution – shutting down all gun stores in the State of New York, including federally licensed gun stores, by deeming them ‘non-essential,’” the suit adds.

Firearm and ammo-related businesses were added to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s list of “critical infrastructure” on March 28, shortly after officials and civil rights groups from states across the nation, such as Texas and Pennsylvania, fought their own legal battles to have guns deemed essential, and ultimately came out on top.

Even in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy – who was outspokenly opposed to reopening gun shops – ultimately relented on March 30.

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But New York has not changed its executive order to reflect CISA’s new guidelines. A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request seeking comment.

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March was a record-breaking month for gun background checks, which are typically reflective of gun sales.

According to figures from the FBI, 3.7 million background checks were done in March — the most for a single month since the system began in 1998. It eclipsed the previous record, set in December 2015, when 3.3 million checks were conducted.

Mark Oliva, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers, called the figures “simply eye-popping.”

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“This is overwhelming evidence that Americans value their ability to take responsibility for their own safety in times of uncertainty,” Oliva said in a statement to FOX Business. “Americans across the country chose to exercise their right to lawfully purchase a gun when their safety became more than a rhetorical question.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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