Texas gun shops exempt from coronavirus closures, AG says

'Every Texan retains their right to purchase and possess firearms'

Texas cities can't force gun shops to close by wielding emergency powers that let them curb the operations of other businesses to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a legal opinion from the state's attorney general.

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While state law allows local governments “to control movement within their region during a disaster," local regulation of the sale, possession and ownership of firearms is specifically prohibited, said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

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"Under our laws, every Texan retains their right to purchase and possess firearms," he added.

Paxton's opinion responded to a query from State Representative Dustin Burrows of Lubbock earlier this week asking whether gun retailers were considered an essential business, a designation that allows some businesses to remain open when others are shut.

Some areas, he noted, hadn't deemed the stores essential, a move that could result in their closure.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System conducted 272,104 background checks for firearm purchases in the state of Texas this year through February, trailing only Illinois with 1.2 million and Kentucky with 765,548. The state had 1.49 million firearm checks in 2019.

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While Texas has no state law requiring such checks, firearms dealers must still comply with the federal statute by seeking a review through the FBI.