New Jersey joined a growing number of states to mandate the closure of nonessential businesses, including gun stores, to slow the spread of coronavirus. Instead of just telling stores to close and hoping for the best, officials shut down the gun background check system, rendering firearm sales virtually impossible, the Trace reports.
The decision comes amid a nationwide spike in gun sales as fears of social unrest proliferate. The National Shooting Sports Foundation reported that gun background checks processed on March 16 surged 300 percent over the same day in 2019. New Jersey requires checks on all gun sales, including those between private parties.
While most states rely on the FBI for gun background checks, New Jersey is one of 12 “point-of-contact” states that do their own screenings using federal databases. After Gov. Phil Murphy’s order for a lockdown, the New Jersey State Police announced that it was ending background checks. Gun-rights advocates called the move a suspension of the Second Amendment.
“Gun rights exist precisely for emergencies like the one the country is facing right now with the Coronavirus,” said the Association of New Jersey Rifle & Pistol Clubs.
“Honest citizens must be able to defend themselves and their families from all manner of threats in this type of emergency – not be blocked from exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed rights.” Two gun-rights groups, a gun dealer and an unsuccessful would-be purchaser challenged the state’s action in court, reports Courthouse News Service.
While other states have classified gun stores as nonessential businesses and ordered them to close, Jake Charles of Duke University’s Center for Firearms Law said New Jersey’s shutting its background check system is unprecedented.