PORTLAND, MAINE – Portland’s city leaders are facing trouble on all fronts. Recent city orders have shut down virtually all non-essential business, forbidding small shops from even shipping goods or allowing curbside pickup. It appears the order, which also deemed firearms stores as non-essential and forced them to close, is in violation of Maine’s pre-emption laws.
Several groups, the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of Maine and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine are now demanding the city allow retailers that sell firearm to reopen.
Designed to prevent local governments from enacting their own gun control ordinances and creating a confusing patchwork of local laws, the state’s preemption law ensures law-abiding citizens should enjoy the same rights, regardless of where they reside. Maine’s law contains no exception for local government acting in an emergency – which the NRA and their allies point out, means the City of Portland is blatantly violating the state preemption law by classifying gun shops as non-essential businesses and ordering them to close under their new order.
Gun Owners of Maine cited the order in an email alert calling on members to contact the Portland City Council and ask that they follow state law instead of trying to advance their status as “social justice warriors.”
“We could not be more opposed to this overreach and we’re disappointed that such games would even be considered during these already uncomfortable times,” said Brett Bulmer, President of Gun Owners of Maine.
“Not only does this illustrate the very reason we have our preemption laws in Maine, but it also goes against both the State and Federal list of essential businesses, already established. Local municipalities simply do not have the authority to close gun shops, and the City of Portland is clearly in violation of our longstanding preemption law.”
Portland’s Order No. 156-19/20 was adopted on April 14 and says “Gun shops shall not be considered an essential business or service within the City of Portland.”
Portland city leaders have also been facing heavy criticism for other pieces of recent orders and an FAQ the city published that went so far as to forbid businesses the city deems non-essential, such as small retail shops, from even shipping goods they sold online.
Several weeks ago, Governor Janet Mills ran into trouble on the same topic. Her administration initially classified firearms retailers as non-essential “sporting goods” stores, forcing them to close, before caving to the pressure and declaring them essential services a few days later.
The issue of firearms sales during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a flashpoint across the country as some liberal public officials have quickly sought to shut down sales under emergency orders.
Proponents of the firearms retailers argue that United States citizens have a right, and sometimes a greater need, to be able to protect themselves in a crisis. Retailers that sell firearms, ammunition, supplies and services for firearms have been declared essential by the federal government.
It is unclear what the next steps are for the groups and the Portland City Council. Yesterday the Portland City Council announced they would allow non-essential businesses to resume shipping goods, no-contact delivery and curbside pickup for internet and phone orders until an emergency meeting on Monday.
Monday’s meeting may decide a new course for most non-essential businesses, including those who sell firearms. Monday’s council meeting will be a remote workshop at 5:30 pm. The city’s website is portlandmaine.gov.