Maryland Democrats urge Hogan to close gun stores

A large group of Maryland Democratic lawmakers wants the state’s gun stores closed during the coronavirus pandemic and sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan Thursday, urging him to do so.

Under federal guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, gun shops are considered essential businesses, but the lawmakers said Hogan’s administration should form its own policy on the matter.

“The letter is asking the governor to reconsider following the federal guidelines,” said Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard, who is leading the effort.

“During this pandemic, gun shops are not essential to saving lives.”

In all, 58 Democratic state delegates and senators signed the letter to Hogan, a Republican.

“It’s a crisis, but it’s a public health crisis,” Atterbeary said.

“We don’t need to be focused on making sure people can stockpile guns.”

In the letter, the lawmakers said that if Maryland gun shops do remain open, they should “require an appointment during limited business hours for individuals who choose to purchase guns.”

Gun control groups have expressed concerns that adding firearms into stressed-out households filled with people cooped up during lockdown orders will lead to increased levels of domestic violence and suicides.

“Marylanders need to be encouraged to fight this pandemic with hygiene and social distancing rather than with guns,” lawmakers said in the letter.

In the past several weeks, various states and municipalities have offered different interpretations of whether gun stores should be allowed to remain open as Americans stay at home to avoid spreading the virus.

In Los Angeles, for example, County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has twice ordered gun shops in his territory to close, leading to legal challenges from gun rights advocates.

The gun lobby has said it’s critical these shops remain open so Americans, who are buying firearms in record numbers, have the ability to exercise their constitutional rights.

More Coronavirus News

In recent weeks, firearm sales have skyrocketed. Background checks — the key barometer of gun sales — already were at record numbers in January and February, likely fueled by a presidential election year.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, gun shops have reported long lines and runs on firearms and ammunition.

Background checks were up 300% on March 16, compared with the same date a year ago, according to federal data shared with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers.

Since Feb. 23, each day has seen roughly double the volume over 2019, according to Mark Oliva, spokesman for the group.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

This article was written by WTOP’s news partners at Maryland Matters and republished with permission. Sign up for Maryland Matters’ free email subscription today.

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