AUGUSTA, Maine — Gun shops will be allowed to reopen in Maine after the administration of Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday included them on an updated list of businesses that will be allowed to operate despite a new stay-at-home order aimed at fighting the coronavirus.
It came as the Democratic governor used her emergency powers to put Maine among a majority of states that have issued a stay-at-home order aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. Last week, she ordered the closure of public-facing businesses that were deemed nonessential.
That earlier order relied on guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that outlines “the critical infrastructure workforce” — including first responders and health care, grocery, pharmacy and utility workers. All of those types of business have stayed open in Maine.
Gun shops were not on that federal list until Saturday, when the administration of President Donald Trump updated its list amid advocacy from gun-rights groups. The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development changed its list to include them on Tuesday.
The issue caused a minor controversy last week when the Kittery Trading Post, which sells guns, apparel and recreation equipment, was ruled nonessential by the state and closed, according to the Portsmouth Herald. Some gun shops closed, moved to curbside service or remained open while limiting the number of people in their stores.
David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, a gun-rights group, said last week that he had been talking with the administration on the issue for the past few days and that he thought the closures were an unintended consequence of Mills’ order.
On Tuesday, Trahan said he had been hearing lots of anger from his organization’s supporters since the order was issued last week. Republican politicians including former Gov. Paul LePage had criticized Mills over the initial move.
Trahan expected some gun stores to reopen as a result of the shift, but he said he heard on Tuesday from one owner whose store has remained open that business has been relatively slow with people remaining at home during the outbreak.
“I’m relieved and thankful to the governor for clarifying that, but I’m also solemn because of the extraordinary times and the dangers that we’re all facing in our ordinary days,” Trahan said.