Law & the Courts

Federal Judge Allows Massachusetts Gun Stores to Reopen Despite Governor’s Lockdown Order

Guns for sale are seen inside of Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, February 28, 2018. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

A federal judge on Thursday announced he will allow gun stores to reopen in Massachusetts, after Governor Charlie Baker ordered gun stores to close during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s no justification here” to close gun stores, said Judge Douglas Woodlock of the U.S. District Court for Massachusetts. “I don’t have anything like a substantial fit between the goals of the emergency declared by the commonwealth and the burdening of the constitutional rights of the defendants in this narrow area.”

Woodlock also criticized Governor Baker for failing to clearly explain the justification for a closure of those stores. “When we’re dealing with constitutional rights, some degree of clarity that tells us that it’s necessary is perhaps a foundational requirement,” Woodlock said.

The judge’s order to reopen gun stores will include certain restrictions to enforce social distancing measures, such as limiting the shops to an appointment-only model with four appointments in an hour at most.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused mass closures of businesses deemed “nonessential” by state governments. However, after Baker shut gun stores as part of the closures throughout Massachusetts, a group of firearm owners and gun rights advocates sued the state at the beginning of April.

“Closure of some of these institutions, like bookstores and schools, may implicate constitutional rights,” attorney Julia Kobick wrote in an April 29 defense of Baker’s order, “but the health and welfare of the Massachusetts citizenry depend on these temporary closures.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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