Texas governor Greg Abbott has been reluctant to issue a state-wide stay-at-home order. As he pointed out in a press conference Monday, almost 200 of Texas’s 254 counties have yet to report a case of the Chinese coronavirus. So he’s left the decisions regarding lockdowns to each county.
That, however, has resulted in some counties — including Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio — issuing orders that have resulted in gun stores and manufacturers being shuttered, which is contrary to the language of the Texas constitution.
Here’s a press release from the NSSF:
Many Texas counties and cities have issued “stay-at-home” orders to combat the spread of COVID-19. These orders direct all businesses not considered “essential” to close. Some exceptions include liquor stores, dry cleaners, bicycle repair shops and hardware stores. Conspicuously excluded in all but one are firearm-related businesses.
This appears to be an intentional effort to restrict Texans’ constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms. It happened in the heart of Dallas as a historic and popular gun store was directed to close only hours after the Dallas County Order took effect. Other stores in Dallas closed after hearing of this directed closure.
Texas law is clear. The state statute preempting localities from adopting regulations exceeding state authority on gun sales reads:
A county order or regulation designed or enforced to effectively restrict or prohibit the manufacture, sale, purchase, transfer, or display of firearms, firearm accessories, or ammunition that is otherwise lawful in this state is void. (A similar provision applies to municipalities.)
Further, the Texas Constitution reads:
Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in the lawful defense of himself or the State; but the Legislature shall have the power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.
State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) requested Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to issue an expedited opinion clarifying the proper role of cities and counties. Attorney General Paxton has had a steadfast record of objectively interpreting the letter of the law and defending the citizens’ firearms freedoms.
Members of the firearms industry in Texas should review the language of any order affecting their particular jurisdiction. This language, along with the foregoing provisions of the preemption law, should be considered when deciding whether to remain open.
Jurisdictions’ orders not classifying firearm-related businesses as “essential” include Dallas, Bexar, Harris and Travis Counties, as well as San Antonio, Fort Worth, Austin and Lubbock. Denton County is the exception, classifying “retail firearms sales” as Essential Critical Infrastructure.
NSSF® urges all members to closely follow CDC guidelines, practice social distancing and take precautions to protect the health of their employees and customers.
NSSF is working with state and local officials to ensure that this unfortunate chapter in Texas’ local government history is short-lived and not repeated.