As cities and counties across the state continue to issue “stay-at-home” orders, shuttering “nonessential” businesses in light of the Chinese coronavirus, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is telling local governments they cannot prohibit the sale of firearms.

His opinion comes in response to a request made earlier this week by State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) inquiring whether local governments operating under a disaster declaration may impose a multitude of restrictions upon Texans’ Second Amendment rights.

Responding to the request within days, Paxton issued the opinion letter this morning, ruling that while municipal and county officials possess general emergency authority to control the movement of persons and the occupancy of premises in a local disaster, such orders “may not regulate or restrict the sale of firearms.”

While the law prohibits local governments from restricting the sale of firearms, Paxton’s opinion letter does say the law allows certain local governments to “regulate the use of firearms” in certain circumstances—such as a disaster—if the municipality finds the regulations necessary to protect public health and safety.

In addition, the opinion letter states that local officials still retain emergency powers to control the movement of people and the occupancy of premises during a disaster declaration.

“Under our laws, every Texan retains their right to purchase and possess firearms,” Paxton said.

Paxton’s ruling comes right as Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope reportedly told KFYO radio that gun stores are “nonessential” businesses that would be subject to their disaster declaration and, as such, would be restricted to curbside and online sales only.

It isn’t immediately clear if forcing gun stores to conduct curbside service would be an unlawful restriction on the sale of firearms; however, it could present safety and security issues for gun store employees and customers.

Matt Stringer

Matthew Stringer is from Odessa, TX and serves as a West Texas Correspondent for Texas Scorecard.