The National Rifle Association sued Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for closing gun shops during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the restriction is unconstitutional and leaves citizens defenseless while prisoners are being released early as a result of the crisis.
Gov. Cuomo’s March 20 executive order that included firearms retailers as non-essential businesses which must close is a “pointless and arbitrary attack on the constitutional rights of New York citizens and residents,” the NRA said in a complaint filed late Thursday in Syracuse.
New York ordered most businesses to close to prevent the spread of the virus, but deemed grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies and restaurants that do take-out as essential and allowed them to remain open.
New York officials are “going out of their way to protect liquor stores and release criminals onto the streets, while ignoring the public’s outcry over the suspension of Second Amendment rights,” the suit says.
Peter Crump, who owns Pete’s Gun Shop in Carthage, said Saturday that he supports the lawsuit against the governor.
The NRA is doing the right thing to challenge this,’ Mr. Crump said. “Governors are very quick to jump in and say ‘no in my state I’m going to control this,’ but in the next breath they turn around and ask the federal government to bail them out of their messes. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”
Leon Worthington, owner of Worthington’s Gun Shop in Mannsville, also supports the lawsuit.
I’m behind it because I don’t belive he should have done what he did,” he said. “I’ve had tons of people call me for different things, and every one of them were complaining about Cuomo doing what he did.”
Gun shops around the country have reported surges in sales, and shares of gun and ammunition manufacturers have risen. The final week of February saw the third largest number of background checks since at least 1998, behind the weeks following the Sandy Hook and San Bernardino shootings, according to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, known as NICS.
State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said before the lawsuit was filed that she’d defend the state’s decision.
New York’s take on what’s essential is at odds with the Trump administration, according to the complaint. On March 28, the Department of Homeland Security issued a list of critical infrastructure, including: “Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges,” the NRA said. The gun-rights organization also says that law enforcement may not be sufficient to protect citizens during the crisis.
New Yorkers “have read about the release of thousands of prisoners by state officials, and they are concerned about the ability of police forces to maintain order when officers fear contact with Covid-19 or have fallen ill themselves,” the complaint says.
Bloomberg News contributed to this report.