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Federal Judge Allows Gun Stores in Massachusetts To Re-Open – Questions Why They Were Closed in the First Place

May 8, 2020

Firearms dealers in Massachusetts can re-open their stores starting at noon Saturday, May 9 and can see customers by appointment, a federal judge has ruled.

The judge’s preliminary injunction overturns Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s executive order of March 23 closing gun shops as among what his administration considered non-essential businesses.

The judge’s order allows no more than four appointments per hour and also requires sanitizing, social distancing, physical barriers, and other coronavirus-era precautions for transactions.

“Such firearms dealers are limited to operating only during the period 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. daily, subject to any further land use limitations imposed by the local government in the jurisdiction where the premises are located as are currently in force,” the judge wrote in the order.

Judge Douglas Woodlock, a Ronald Reagan appointee, issued the ruling Thursday, May 7, 2020 in U.S. District Court in Boston.

The judge criticized Governor Baker’s administration during a court hearing earlier this week for not explaining why gun stores should close while liquor stores could remain open during the coronavirus emergency, especially since the right to keep and bear arms is explicitly protected by the federal constitution, according to Law360.com, which covered the three-hour hearing.

“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,” Woodlock said during a court hearing Monday, May 4, according to 360Law.com.

An assistant state attorney general who defended the governor in court said she couldn’t explain why liquor stores were allowed to remain open and gun stores were not allowed to remain open, but she argued that the government should be given wide latitude to deal with an emergency, according to 360Law.com.

She also argued that the state government did not infringe on the right to keep and bear arms because private gun sales were still allowed under the governor’s executive order and ammunition could still be purchased at Walmart, according to 360Law.com.

The judge countered by asking whether the small-caliber ammunition available at Walmart isn’t insufficient for personal protection, according to 360Law.com.

The assistant attorney general said that individual plaintiffs could have gone to New Hampshire to buy ammunition if thee ammunition available in Massachusetts, according to 360Law.com.

Two lawsuits were filed challenging the governor’s executive order. The plaintiffs were gun shop owners, individuals seeking to buy guns, and gun-rights organizations. The cases were combined into one, known as McCarthy et alia vs. Baker.

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