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Gun stores are considered “essential businesses” but bookstores are not?



As the governor has indicated, we are trying to ensure that we have a set of policies that make the most sense…

UpriseRI posed this question to Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo on Sunday, March 29. We didn’t get much of an answer. Instead of talking about the ethical and constitutional implications of limiting access to books as opposed to limiting access to weaponry during the COVID-19 pandemic, Raimondo handed the question over to Commerce RI Secretary Stefan Pryor. To the extent that the answer Pryor supplied was based in ethics, it was based, it seems, in political and economic pragmatism.

Note that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker did not deem gun stores as “essential businesses.”

“As the governor has indicated,” said Pryor, “we are trying to ensure that we have a set of policies that make the most sense, especially in the context of the region and the country in terms of closures and other business related decisions. This is a good example of that.

“So, pertaining to gun stores, it should be noted that firearm stores remain open in Connecticut and New Hampshire among states most proximate to us. And there’s a variety of states – Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Pennsylvania – where such stores also remain open. So we’re trying to continuously monitor states and where they are undertaking openings and closings to make sure that our stores are not particularly disadvantaged because they’re out of sync with the way policies are evolving in our region and our country. So firearm stores are part of that pattern.

“There are other reasons,” continued Pryor. “In the case of firearm stores, a purchaser may be handling a firearm, a particular product or firearms in general for the first time and we want to make sure that things like that occur in the safest possible environment. And that safest possible environment would be a gun store where the environment is controlled and where the person can ensure that they are remaining safe.

Can we please ask a favor?

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“On bookstores. I want to reiterate what the Governor has encouraged us to do and what we are doing, which is requiring the closure of the physical store, but we are very much encouraging bookstores in particular to reach out to our tech support advisors at 521-HELP and let us help you enable online ordering and pick up in front of your store or delivery at home so that you can remain an operation business.”

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.