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Contradicting Gov. Janet Mills, feds say firearms retailers are “essential”

Governor Janet Mills speaks about the coronavirus in a video message from her office.

WASHINGTON D.C. – Last week, the state of Maine forced one of Maine’s most famous firearms retailers and outfitters, Kittery Trading Post, to close under the authority of Governor Janet Mills’ emergency order. On the same day, a Mills’ spokesperson told WMTW that retailers that sell “only guns” were considered “non-essential” and must close. On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security under President Donald Trump issued guidance that contradicts Mills’ orders.

The guidance from DHS says that the industries listed “have a special responsibility in these times to continue operations.”

Under the LAW ENFORCEMENT, PUBLIC SAFETY, AND OTHER FIRST RESPONDERS subsection of the guidance, firearms manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges are all classified as essential.

Following is the entire section of text:

-Public, private, and voluntary personnel (front line and management) in emergency management, law enforcement, fire and rescue services, emergency medical services, and private security, to include public and private hazardous material responders, air medical service providers (pilots and supporting technicians), corrections, and search and rescue personnel.

-911 call center employees and Public Safety Answering Points who can’t perform their duties remotely.

-Fusion Center employees.

-Workers – including contracted vendors — who maintain, manufacture, or supply equipment and services supporting law enforcement emergency service and response operations (to include electronic security and life safety security personnel).

-Workers supporting the manufacturing of safety equipment and uniforms for law enforcement, public safety personnel, and first responder.

-Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges. (emphasis added)

-Public agency workers responding to abuse and neglect of children, elders, and dependent adults.

-Workers who support weather disaster / natural hazard mitigation and prevention activities.

-Security staff to maintain building access control and physical security measures.

The guidance is clear in stating that the list is not a directive from the federal government and that “State, local, tribal, and territorial governments are responsible for implementing and executing response activities, including decisions about access and reentry, in their communities, while the Federal Government is in a supporting role. Officials should use their own judgment in issuing implementation directives and guidance.”

Still, in previous statements, the Mills administration has pointed to the absence of firearms retailers on federal guidance as a justification for closure of firearms retailers. The Mills administration also previously classified guns as “sporting goods”, which ignores the critical role of firearms in protecting public safety.

Across the nation, controversy has surrounded the handling of firearms retailers under emergency closures. The Sheriff of Los Angeles County, California initially deemed firearms retailers non-essential and ordered them closed before reversing course. The Governor of New Jersey is being sued by a firearms dealer and prospective customer for his closure of all firearms retailers as non-essential.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu declared firearms retailers “essential” under his emergency order shuttering many state businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic. New Hampshire’s Governor is a Republican.

But declaring firearms retailers “essential” is not exclusively in the domain of Republican governors, states led by liberal Democrat governors have also deemed them “essential”. Connecticut, Illinois, Delaware, Wisconsin and Minnesota are all run by Governors from the Democratic Party that have allowed firearms retailers to stay open.

The final decision on the fate of Maine’s firearms retailers and those working in the industry rests with Governor Janet Mills, and gun rights groups such as Gun Owners of Maine and the National Rifle Association are urging Maine people to contact Governor Mills’ office to urge her to support reversing her policy.

To read the full guidance from DHS, click here.