New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy reversed his order to force the closure of gun stores in the state Monday following backlash from gun-rights groups and a directive from the Trump administration.
Gun stores will now be allowed to reopen after a nearly two-week shutdown, but would operate "by appointment only and under limited hours."
Murphy made the announcement begrudgingly in a news conference Monday, saying the reversal came after the Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines over the weekend referring to gun dealers, ranges, and manufacturers as "essential" businesses.
"It wouldn't be my definition, but that's the definition at the federal level and I didn't get a vote on that," Murphy said during the briefing, according to NJ.com.
Murphy issued an executive order on March 21 that closed all nonessential retail businesses — including gun stores — amid the state's coronavirus outbreak. The order effectively shut down all firearm sales in the state as the online portal used to process background checks was also forced to close.
The New Jersey Second Amendment Society, along with a local firearms shop, blasted the move in a lawsuit, arguing that Murphy's executive order infringed upon citizens' right to keep and bear arms.
"The exigencies surrounding this viral pandemic both justify and necessitate changes in the manner in which people live their lives and conduct their daily business," the lawsuit stated. "However, this emergency (like any other emergency) has its constitutional limits. It would not justify a prior restraint on speech, nor a suspension of the right to vote. Just the same, it does not justify a ban on obtaining guns and ammunition."
In spite of the lawsuit, Murphy had previously lauded the order's effect on gun retailers, arguing during a press briefing that "a safer society for my taste has fewer guns and not more guns."
"The guns that do exist are at the hands of the right people, particularly trained members of law enforcement," he added at the time. "Crime has been down and let's hope it stays down, but we're very comfortable where we landed on that."
Murphy's recent reversal on the forced closure of gun stores follows in the footsteps of a similar decision by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, who backed off his previous executive order after taking heat from Second Amendment supporters in his state.