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This is the second of a two-part post on the effects of executive orders on our rights. You can read part one here

By Richard Hayes

If someone compiled a dictionary for the year 2020, it would undoubtedly include brand new definitions for common words and phrases that we all thought we had a pretty good grasp on. During the COVID-19 period, we have all come to know phrases like “non-essential” and “essential” businesses. How about “social distancing” or those all too familiar “masks” of the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) variety?

We couldn’t forget “public gatherings,” which can be prohibited, limited in size, or restricted in a variety of ways. Some very specific terms have been amplified this year, or shall we say turned sideways, like the measurement of six feet, now the designated “safe distance” between us.

Many of our freedoms seem to have disappeared right before our eyes. No explanation needed. No permission needed. No votes cast. How could this possibly happen without more involvement from the people of our country? It’s all linked to two words: executive orders.

In this second and final article on the subject of executive orders, we examine state executive orders issued by governors. These have certainly been in the news throughout the pandemic as states have tried to “slow the spread” of COVID-19. While the orders related to the pandemic are expected to eventually expire, there’s an ongoing effort through state executive orders to change legal gun ownership and firearms policies, and this is expected to continue.

The Power of the State

Executive orders in many states are quite powerful in their ability to affect and direct state policy and, in turn, affect the everyday life of the state’s residents. State executive orders may be enforced by all levels of state government. Similar to federal executive orders issued by the President of the United States, governors can also wield substantial unilateral power through their executive orders.

State executive orders are common gubernatorial powers used to declare public emergencies (such as a COVID-19 public health emergency), the appointment of state officials, and creation of executive branch commissions or agencies to enact a governor’s policy, which can include “common sense” firearms initiatives.

Plus, the Weight of Law

Governor-issued executive orders may carry the weight and enforcement power of law, just like acts and statutes enacted by state legislatures. In 38 states, executive orders are enforceable the day they are executed and are not subject to any form of review by the state legislature. Then, there are six states (Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, and Kentucky) that require an executive order to go through a legislative review process.

The remaining six states (Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah, and Vermont) have legislative review requirements for specific types of executive orders—usually concerning agency creation. State executive orders are often issued without specified end dates and may persist for many years or even decades after their issuing governor has left office.

Proclaiming a State of Emergency for COVID-19

In March of 2020, the Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, issued one of the first state executive orders in response to COVID-19. Other governors quickly followed suit and issued their own executive orders, using the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and guidelines outlined by President Donald J. Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

Eventually, all 50 states would declare a “State of Emergency” or “Declared Disaster” designed to control and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Controlling our Work, Dining, Shopping, Exercise, Etc.

As of the writing of this article, most states still have some form of COVID-19 executive order in place that is continuing to affect everyday life, such as shopping, eating in a restaurant, going to a bar, working out at a gym, going to a movie theater, and attending places of worship.

All of this suggests that executive orders are quite powerful in many states. Since executive orders are a matter of public record, all states must make them accessible to the public in some form, and you can find your own state’s executive orders enacted in 2020 at The Council of State Governments.

Mayors Seize on and Expand Gubernatorial Orders

Many state executive orders can be adopted by county and city governments who may make modifications based on their needs. For example, on May 29, 2020, Chicago’s Mayor issued Public Health Order No-2020-3, which interpreted and applied the Illinois Governor’s Stay-at-Home Executive Order. It ordered all Chicagoans to stay at home through at least June 3, 2020.

Lori Lightfoot
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

It stated: “This is essential to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in our city, and to protect our friends, neighbors, and vulnerable Chicagoans.” The order included the following directives (as well as others):

  • You are required to stay at home except for essential needs, such as getting groceries once a week or seeking medical care.
  • When you must go out in public, you should always stay 6 feet away from others. If social distancing is not possible, wear a face covering.
  • You can go outside for brief walks, runs, or bike rides, or to walk your pet, but you can’t gather in groups of 10 or more. That includes no group sports like basketball or soccer.

Finally, the City of Chicago order went on to proclaim, “This order is mandatory – not suggested guidance. We are counting on your good judgment to decide when it is essential to go out. The City of Chicago and Chicago Police Department will enforce the order as needed to keep people safe, including dispersing large groups who are gathered in public places.”

Gun Owner Rights and State Executive Orders

Executive orders have been used to restrict gun rights in several states. Most notably, on September 10, 2019, the Governor of New Jersey issued Executive Order No. 83, which contained a number of broad provisions “to tackle gun violence” and gave sweeping power to executive agencies to control the sale of ammunition and firearms. Similarly, the Governor of Pennsylvania issued an executive order that same year to “eradicate gun violence” and created the Special Council on Gun Violence. Both states effectively changed the law, restricting the rights of their citizens to own guns without having to go through the ordinary legislative process.

Another example of governors using their executive power to limit the rights of gun owners occurred earlier this year, when the Virginia governor declared a “disaster” to ban guns from a pro-gun rally. The rights of Americans are being challenged frequently by the elected officials we trust to protect the Constitution. While the varying levels of the executive branch have tools at their disposal, citizens still have the ability to vote these officials out of office.

The good news, the authority of governors to encroach on gun rights during a state of emergency has been curtailed in numerous ways. In 2006, Congress passed the Disaster Recovery Personal Protection Act of 2006 which modified federal law to prohibit federal agents from confiscating firearms during an emergency or major disaster. Although this prohibition does not apply to states or state agencies, many states followed suit and enacted their own legislation against such encroachments.

texas gun law legislative session

States such as Texas and Florida passed laws that prohibit the confiscation of firearms during a declared disaster or emergency. Not all state legislatures have followed suit and many states still allow local or executive authorities to restrict the sale or transportation of firearms or ammunition. In the end, as voters, we must realize how important it is to elect state legislators who will help in the curtailment effort.

Strong Policy Tool of Government

Throughout 2020, we’ve all witnessed first-hand the power of the executive order during a disaster declaration or state of emergency. Governors have declared disasters over strange things. Further, we’ve seen governors seize a “moment of opportunity” to declare a disaster, issue an executive order, and then tie in their policy objectives regarding gun right restrictions, such as when the Virginia governor declared a “disaster” to ban guns from a pro-gun rally.

northam gun control virginia beach
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Executive orders are a powerful tool that may look vastly different depending on the particular governor, and even local mayors, as they enact their desired policies. It’s our job as voters to research all candidates for elected office to understand their position on gun control. Your votes can and will affect American gun rights!

For more information about state executive orders, contact U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.


Richard Hayes is an Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield.

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  1. Hilarious…stay at home until June 3?!? Unless your BlackLootersMurder? Who has most of the firepower? Hmmm???

    • The correct terminology is “Burn Loot & Murder” activist.

      • Back in “Parador” (my wife’s homeland), they use a specific phrase in reference to a traffic jam. Translated into English, it becomes “diarrhea of cars.” I thought of that phrase the first time I saw some footage of these hoodlums tearing through a city. A diarrhea of looters. Change it up a mite, and you end up with BoweL Movement. Straight from the guts of Marxism, Antifa, or whatever “body” you want to mention.

      • I’m so sorry did I offend your delicate sensibilities??? EVERY LAST A-HOLE who arrived in my town from 7 buses on May 31 was black. Most with BLM t-shirts on. DITTO in Chiraq. Ditto in Louisville. My beautiful black wife wasn’t offended. Just ANGRY…

        • Speaking of arriving in busses with t shirts on, I have been telling people for more than a decade that every gun rally or lobby day we ever had at the state capital, the anti gunners would show up on buses, majority black, with t shirts, given a free lunch, lead and organized by white Karens, even before the “moms” existed as an organization. For outside events they had pre made signs ready for them. They have been practicing this for a long time.

          If you asked one of them what was up they would tell you that churches and community centers in Philly and Pittsburgh had guys out on the sidewalk offering a t shirt, lunch, and $50 cash for anyone willing to go Harrisburg for the day and do what the Karens told them.

          It really pissed us off because we took a day off work, paid to park, paid for our own damn lunch just to get shit on by the majority of the politicians and media. Every time we told other people about this they didn’t believe us.

        • “Bolshevist Lies, Metastasized” is what it should really stand for. It’s using race as a baited strawman to push communist agenda.

      • You are correct…Those pulling the majority of the strings are white. The media wants the rampage to appear all Black so good ol’ boys will get angry and suckered into wanting to go get those Ns. Their anger needs to be contained and directed towards the real source. If you know who and what bill ayers is and understand the tactics of the Weather Underground it’s easy to see how Blacks are positioned on the front lines as an army of useful idiots. Most behind the curtains pulling the strings are lily white cowards full of marxist manure..

        TRUMP/PENCE 2020..

        • I posted a YT video of black former commies from the 50s who left the party when they figured out they were being used as “cannon fodder” and the commies actually didn’t care one whit about civil rights.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised, I’d be shocked. Pro-gun and left wing are polar opposites. Just because leftist wingnuts own guns doesn’t make them pro-gun. They’re fine with their guns — but not with yours or mine.

      • “You’d be surprised how many pro-gun owners are on the left.”


        Please tell me –

        Do you vote, and do you vote the candidates that support gun rights, or do you vote the candidate who promises “Common-sense gun control”?

  2. “Executives” “Officials” “Honorables” “Distinguished” …
    All fancy labels used by PUBLIC SERVANTS to make them sound powerful than the sheeple they WORK FOR.

  3. When this whole fiasco started I never paid attention to any of the mandates. I went out and never wore a mask. Still don’t!! The government can stick in their ear!!

      • In addition to wearing a mask all day at work, I wear one everywhere I go where I will be around other people. I’ve spent most of 2020 trying to stop people from dying and watching people die, both patients and staff. This disease is real and it is no joke. When you are around others, especially the vulnerable, please wear a mask for their sake.

  4. When I worked Katrina I worked from Bay St. Louis, MS to the LA. line. News was in short supply, but if I remember correctly, after finally returning home I heard the governor of LA (or maybe that POS mayor of New Orleans) t
    had ordered confiscation of firearms. If I continue to remember correctly that governor was slapped down. I only know that occasionally, and rarely, I had to temporarily disarm a citizen. I subsequently returned every firearm. Still loaded. Executive orders are dangerous.

  5. Surprised no one has mentioned this in relation to the prospect of an anti gun executive branch.
    Talk about innocent people being hurt =— killed– burned— and no crime committed.

    Ruby Ridge


    • You are correct sir! Governor Coonman got the covid. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy…so it happened ti him😏

  6. From the article:

    “States such as Texas and Florida passed laws that prohibit the confiscation of firearms during a declared disaster or emergency.”

    Hmm. Well, today is Friday, and CA considers every day open season for confiscation of firearms, declared disaster or not. CADOJ is currently not processing COE renewal for FFLs, and allowing gun stores to effectively close by backdoor license expiration. Newsom and Becerra are pulling out all the stops now.

  7. The problem is legislatures who pass laws granting said executive orders the force of law during times of “emergency” or “terrorism”. Legislatures should not be permitted to delegate their own powers to other branched of government, as such violates the Separation of Powers.

    But when things get a bit scary, it seems that too many people desire to be ruled by dukes and kings, rather than limit the powers of governors and presidents as is Constitutional.

  8. “Similarly, the Governor of Pennsylvania issued an executive order that same year to “eradicate gun violence” and created the Special Council on Gun Violence.”

    All that executive order did was create that council. It did not change any of the gun laws in Pennsylvania.

  9. Virtually everything said here is WRONG. Executive Orders are NOT “Law”. Only the legislators in a State can create “law”. Things like masks, gathering sizes, and the like are nothing more than the musings and wishful whims of power-hungry tyrants. Executive Orders CANNOT supersede the Constitution of the States or Our U.S. Constitution. The only reason “governors” have been successful with their recent orders is ONLY because most Americans have been turned into Sheep through years of indoctrination from the media and more importantly Our educational institutions. If all Americans stood up to their ELECTED “leaders” and collectively said, “ENOUGH”, there would be nothing these Tyrants could do about it. We have become, with “few” exceptions, Cowards when it comes to standing up for Our Rights, and stand up to Our so-called “Leaders”.

  10. Legislators write vague laws that empower the executive branch for things like disaster declarations without limiting powers. Or they establish an agency like the EPA, staff it and tell it to “use science stuff, make our water clean”. Bureaucrats make rules, enforce rules, and pass judgement on unsuspecting citizens who succumb to law fare tyranny. Lazy legislators. Justice Clarence Thomas stands strongly against this unconstitutional transferring of power.

  11. Well, according to the author, the deep state will bury us all in short order.

    I guess we better just burn it all down and start anew.

    Welcome to BLM and AntiFa, comrades.

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