2020 Election

Biden Would Shut Down Gun Stores Amid Pandemic, Surrogate Says

Activist says Trump to blame for 'additional deaths' by keeping gun stores open amid pandemic

Gun-control activist and Joe Biden surrogate Fred Guttenberg said the presumptive Democratic nominee would shut down gun stores in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Guttenberg told the audience at a virtual town hall Monday that Trump was killing Americans by allowing gun stores to remain open, pointing to federal guidelines that labeled gun businesses "essential."

"This decision by this administration is going to lead to additional people dying in this country," Guttenberg said. "Joe Biden would not have called these essential businesses in the middle of a pandemic. It's that simple. And so shame on the politicians who allowed this to happen. Shame on the businesses who are using this pandemic as a business sales opportunity."

Guns and their availability during the pandemic have been a point of contention in the 2020 presidential race. Biden accused his former rival, socialist Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, of being responsible for "150 million" gun deaths because of a decade-old vote on manufacturer liability. Guttenberg similarly said the blame would be on Trump for additional deaths stemming from gun sales, calling gun stores' continued operations "the height of irresponsibility."

The Trump administration deemed gun stores, ranges, and manufacturers "essential" businesses at the end of March, leading a number of state and local officials to reopen shuttered gun businesses. Americans flocked to gun stores even before the decision was announced. March shattered previous gun-sales records, as more than 2.5 million guns were sold—many to first-time buyers.

Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered during the Parkland school shooting in 2018, has appeared at several Biden campaign events, as well as on television ads. On Monday he joined three student gun-control activists to host a virtual town hall organized by Biden for President, Students for Biden, and Everytown for Gun Safety. Biden promoted the event on social media, but did not attend. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment about whether the candidate agrees with Guttenberg's assertions.

Guttenberg went on to say that gun stores are contributing to the pandemic and selling to people who are not legally allowed to buy or own firearms, though he did not offer evidence of either claim.

"You have crowds showing up around these gun stores not only spreading coronavirus, but they're buying weapons, or they're buying ammunition," he said. "And many of them are prohibited purchasers of weapons, or they already have the weapon, and now they're running out and buying the ammunition to use it."

Gun stores and all federally licensed dealers are required to run federal background checks on all gun sales they conduct. Those checks are designed to ensure that licensed dealers do not sell firearms to people prohibited from having them under federal and state law. Despite Guttenberg's claim, there has been no evidence that gun stores—which have remained open in most states—are a significant source of new infections. Many that have remained open adopted social distancing and sanitation practices similar to other "essential" businesses. Everytown, where Guttenberg is a member of its Survivors Network, did not respond to request for comment.

Biden has supported a wide range of new gun-control measures during his 2020 campaign for president. In June, he pushed for a ban on sales of all guns except hypothetical "smart guns." In October, he said he would support a national registry of firearms "down the line." In March, he threatened to fight an autoworker who challenged his support for bans on guns like the AR-15. A short time later he brought on a new campaign manager who publicly supported confiscating AR-15s.