Gun Stores Can Sell Guns, Ammunition In Parking Lots, ATF Says

Gun sales are up in some parts of the country, as American fear what will happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

a customer handles merchandise at a gun store
Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Gun sales are up in some parts of the country, as American fear what will happen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has issued guidance that says that gun stores can conduct their business in their parking lots during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, Waco’s KXXV-TV reports. The agency’s memo notes that this is only guidance and that local laws still apply.

Across the country, “non-essential” businesses are shut down in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. In many localities, that means that gun shops are closed, too, although the matter of whether or not gun shops are essential is a contentious debate in some jurisdictions.

All that aside, the ATF has said that, under certain conditions, retailers licensed by the agency will be allowed, at least temporarily, to conduct their business in parking lots or via drive-through windows.

“A licensed importer, manufacturer, or dealer may engage in the firearms or ammunition business for which the business is licensed on any part of its business premises, provided that the activity otherwise complies with all applicable federal laws and regulations,” the memo reads in part.

If the business is being conducted in a parking lot, whether the store’s own parking lot or one nearby, it must be owned by the same license-holder that owns the store.

RIVERDALE, IL - JUNE 06: A general view of atmosphere at the Stop Bad Apple Gun Dealers Protest at Chuck's Gun Shop on June 6, 2015 in Riverdale, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence)
  Jeff Schear / Getty Images for Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The retailers would still have to verify the customers’ identities, check the necessary paperwork, and do whatever else is required under local law. Further, their inventory would have to remain safely locked inside the store.

The memo is clear that it is providing only guidance, and that it is not intended to supersede local law.

“Guidance documents, like this industry letter, are not binding and lack the force and effect of law, unless expressly authorized by statute,” the memo reads.

Whether or not mayors, governors, or other lawmakers in jurisdictions that have closed gun stores will allow them to carry out their business in parking lots, as per the ATF memo, remains to be seen. In some states, however, such as Texas, the memo is all but moot. That’s because the state’s governor has allowed gun stores to remain open.

Outside of Texas, the matter of whether or not gun stores are “essential” and should be allowed to remain open during the pandemic is a contentious issue that has spurred at least one lawsuit. As previously reported by The Inquistr, the National Rifle Association (NRA) sued a host of California officials over Governor Gavin Newsom’s order that gun stores in the state remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.