New Jersey governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that arms deals are now essential businesses and can remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.
The governor’s decision, which was announced during his daily meeting, is a reversal of his previous position on arms dealers.
Murphy said that arms dealers and some other types of company are included in the list of companies that are considered material and that they can remain open under their March 21 regulation, which ordered all non-material companies to be closed until further notice. The change was made according to the Federal Ministry of Internal Security in an advisory Saturday evening, listed arms dealers as “critical infrastructure”.
At least three gun rights organizations have filed a lawsuit in the past few days to force the state of New Jersey to allow the opening of arms stores. Several Republican lawmakers asked the governor to allow this as well.
“In accordance with the guidelines released by the Federal Department of Homeland Security over the weekend, we will enable arms sellers to operate,” Murphy said during his briefing.
Arms sales are by appointment only, Murphy said, and “during limited hours.”
Murphy, who supports stricter weapons legislation, made it clear that he was reluctant to make the decision.
“It would not have been my definition, but it is the federal definition. I have not received a vote on it,” he said.
The New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Club Association Lawsuit filed last weekon the grounds that “the importance of recognizing and protecting the fundamental right of law-abiding citizens to self-defense has never been higher”.
Scott Bach, the group’s managing director, said in a phone interview that his group would not withdraw the lawsuit, although he was satisfied with Murphy’s decision.
“It is good that the governor is finally giving in to the pressure from the federal government, but our case is continuing,” said Bach. “We strive for a permanent injunction that prevents this from ever happening again in this or in future administrations.”
The other two groups that have filed lawsuits are the New Jersey Second Amendment Society and the Second Amendment Foundation.
State Senator Michael Testa (R-Cumberland), who asked Murphy to identify arms deals as essential deals, said he was satisfied with the governor’s decision.
“I am pleased that Governor Murphy is finally recognizing and recognizing our constitutional right to carry arms, especially in this state of emergency,” Testa said in a statement. “The second change is essential for all law-abiding citizens, especially for more security and self-protection. The New Jerseyers’ right to buy a firearm should never have been violated.