New Jersey governor reverses course to let gun stores open during coronavirus pandemic

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday that gun stores will be able to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic, changing their status in the Garden State to essential businesses amid the outbreak.

The announcement marked a reversal for the Democratic governor, who had closed gun shops as well as other nonessential businesses in the state to curb the spread of COVID-19.


“In accordance with the guidance released over the weekend by the federal Department of Homeland Security, we will allow firearms sellers to operate,” Murphy said, after having designated gun shops nonessential under his stay-at-home executive order earlier this month.

Murphy’s decision came after the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the Department of Homeland Security issued guidance over the weekend telling states that they should allow gun retailers and shooting ranges to remain open during the pandemic.

Agency Director Christopher Krebs on Saturday told states that "[w]orkers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges" are part of the "essential critical infrastructure workforce."

Murphy, a Democrat who has pushed for stricter gun laws in his state, said he was hesitant in making the change, but said he didn’t have a say in the matter.

“It wouldn’t have been my definition, but that’s the definition at the federal level. I didn’t get a vote on that,” Murphy said, adding that residents can go to a gun store to purchase a firearm by appointment only and “during limited hours.”

Firearm-related businesses were just one of many topics addressed in the DHS guidance. It provided states and localities with recommendations on essential businesses in industries ranging from agriculture to energy to transportation.

Murphy also announced other changes, saying that car dealerships would be able to make sales online or over the phone, and that vehicles can be delivered or picked up curbside. Murphy also acknowledged that car repair services have been allowed to stay open.

Murphy also said breweries and pubs are now able to make deliveries.

Murphy signed an executive order on March 21 directing all residents to “stay at home,” and “indefinitely” closing all nonessential retail businesses in an effort to halt the spread of coronavirus.


“All gatherings are canceled. This means no weddings, no funerals or birthday parties,” Murphy said in a video posted to Twitter earlier this month. “I don’t take this action lightly, but my goal is to make sure you can gather safely with family and friends later.”

Murphy, at the time, said “grocery stores, food banks, pharmacies, medical supply stores, gas stations, banks, pet supply stores, restaurants and bars providing takeout and delivery” are among the limited exceptions and will remain open.

The move also orders all retail businesses to close and all businesses to “move to 100 percent work from home, wherever possible.”

Murphy’s announcement came as states like New York, California, Connecticut and Illinois passed similar laws ordering citizens to stay at home, and closing nonessential businesses. Other states have since followed suit.

Fox News' Tyler Olson, Andrew O'Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.