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Texas' Attorney General Says Cities And Counties Can't Restrict Gun Sales Under Emergency Orders

Miguel Gutierrez for KUT

Gun sales can continue even as cities and counties curb nonessential business in light of COVID-19, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

In an opinion issued Friday, Paxton said even though Gov. Greg Abbott's disaster declaration empowers cities and counties to restrict some activity, state law doesn't allow for the restriction of gun sales.

Paxton's order was prompted by state Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican from Lubbock who asked the attorney general's office for an opinion on whether local rules paring down business transactions to only those that are "essential" should include gun stores, ranges or other firearms-related businesses.

Paxton said there is no state law that would allow for Texas cities and counties to limit the sale or transfer of firearms.

“State law provides several emergency powers to local governments to control movement within their region during a disaster, which serves our communities well during public health events like the one we’re fighting now," he wrote Friday. "However, local regulation of the sale, possession, and ownership of firearms is specifically prohibited under Texas law. Under our laws, every Texan retains their right to purchase and possess firearms.” 

Cities and states across the country are asking whether firearms sales and gun-related businesses should be considered essential as they shelter-in-place and restrict businesses to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

Cities like New Orleans and Champaign, Ill., have moved to enable city officials to limit the sale and transfer of firearms under state-of-emergency orders, but they haven't limited gun sales.

Paxton's opinion stops short of classifying firearms retailers or businesses like gun ranges as essential, though it allows gun sales to continue.

Under state law, the Texas governor can restrict gun sales during disasters.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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