Gun stores are essential business and should be allowed to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Friday. Paxton said in his nonbinding opinion that state law prevents cities and counties from "adopting regulations related to the transfer, possession, or ownership of firearms, or commerce in firearms."
Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, on Tuesday requested that Paxton's office weigh in on whether firearm sales can be listed as essential businesses by local officials, as businesses across the state have shuttered due to shelter-in-place orders designed to slow spread of the new coronavirus.
"Having access to tools of self-protection, hunting and for keeping your property safe and secure is always essential. It’s even more essential for access during times of uncertainty and emergency," Burrows said in a written statement. Many cities and counties had not designated gun retailers, ranges or manufacturers as essential businesses in their stay-at-home orders, Burrows said in his letter. However, San Antonio and Dallas County did exempt the fire arms businesses. “It does not appear that cities or counties have the authority to restrict the transfer of firearms, even during a natural disaster,” Burrows wrote in his request.
The opinion comes less than 72 hours after the agency received Burrows' request — a remarkably fast turnaround on a process that routinely takes weeks or months.
City and county officials cannot prohibit the sale of guns during an emergency declaration, according to the Texas Attorney General.