NEW YORK -- The National Rifle Association sued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for closing gun shops during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the restriction is unconstitutional and leaves citizens defenseless while prisoners are being released early as a result of the crisis.
Cuomo's March 20 executive order that included firearms retailers as nonessential businesses that must close is a "pointless and arbitrary attack on the constitutional rights of New York citizens and residents," the NRA said in a complaint filed late Thursday in Syracuse.
New York ordered most businesses to close to prevent the spread of the virus, but deemed grocery stores, liquor stores, pharmacies and restaurants that do take-out as essential and allowed them to remain open. New York City is the center of the outbreak in the U.S., accounting for more than 1,300 of the 5,700 deaths in the country.
New York officials are "going out of their way to protect liquor stores and release criminals onto the streets, while ignoring the public's outcry over the suspension of Second Amendment rights," the suit says.
The New York lawsuit follows similar action the NRA took in Northern California, where it sued several cities including San Jose for ordering gun stores to close.
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, said before the lawsuit was filed that she'd defend the state's decision.
New York's take on what's essential is at odds with the Trump administration, according to the complaint. On March 28, the Department of Homeland Security issued a list of critical infrastructure, including: "Workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors and shooting ranges," the NRA said. The gun-rights organization also says that law enforcement may not be sufficient to protect citizens during the crisis.
New Yorkers "have read about the release of thousands of prisoners by state officials, and they are concerned about the ability of police forces to maintain order when officers fear contact with COVID-19 or have fallen ill themselves," the complaint says.
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