Massachusetts gun stores, gun store selection
(Photo by Jay Langston)

A federal judge in Massachusetts has ordered gun stores reopened in the state, saying Gov. Charlie Baker’s order runs afoul of the Constitution. U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock on Friday granted a preliminary injunction against Gov. Baker’s emergency order shutting down gun shops in the state. The Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Police Coalition and Commonwealth Second Amendment, Inc., all pursued the case.

Massachusetts Gun Stores Reopened

Judge Woodlock lashed out at state government attorneys during oral arguments earlier in the week. He asked them to explain why gun stores closed, but liquor stores remained open. In the process, he made it clear that Constitutional rights make a difference.

Assistant Attorney General Julia Kobick told the court that stopping the virus in its tracks and saving lives required bold moves. She further argued that the burden on the Second Amendment is light because citizens could still acquire guns through private sales and also buy ammunition at Walmart (even though Walmart no longer sells pistol ammo) or in neighboring states.

“In times of crisis, the government is entitled to draw lines and is entitled to deference in how it draws lines in determining what is essential for human survival,” Kobick said during the hearing. “I don’t know why liquor stores were included, but gun retailers were not.

“We do contend that rights of plaintiffs are fully protected by the availability of ammunition in Walmart,” she added. “Many of the plaintiffs live near state borders. They can always go to dealers in New Hampshire.”

Judge Sides With Gun Stores

For his part, Judge Woodlock didn’t seem to think Kobick’s statement was a legitimate answer.

“It (determining what must close and can remain open) requires a sober analysis of the responsibilities of those who sell various kinds of commodities and in the absence of any contemporaneous explanation what it is that could distinguish those two … the line is drawn to burden constitution rights and not sumptuary rights,” he said. “In the absence of real justification or a real outline of what the distinctions are, it is really difficult to give deference to concerted silence on the part of the administrators who are required to make these decisions.”

In Friday’s ruling, Judge Woodlock concluded “there is no justification” for the state to close gun retailers during the pandemic. Because of the ruling, gun shops in the state will be able to reopen at noon on Saturday.

Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, a plaintiff in the case, said that when Gov. Baker lumped gun shops in with thousands of other business deemed “non-essential, it proved he didn’t consider the exercise of a constitutional right “essential.”

“We are delighted at the decision by U.S. District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock and the swiftness with which it was reached,” Gottlieb said of the ruling in a release. “Constitutional rights are never put on hold because of an emergency, including the outbreak of a virus. Too many elected officials think otherwise, and we’re having to deal with them one lawsuit at a time, same as we’re taking on Governor Baker.”

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