The Volokh Conspiracy

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DHS Adds Workers for Gunmakers, Gun Retailers, and Shooting Ranges to "Essential Critical Infrastructure" List

This is an advisory list, but I expect will have some influence on some local governments.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

See here, which lists "[w]orkers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges," but prefaces all the categories (not just the gun-related ones) with:

This list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard. Additionally, this advisory list is not intended to be the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue during the COVID-19 response across all jurisdictions. Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion.

The Free Beacon (Stephen Gutowski) notes that, several days ago, N.J. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal defended including gun stores in the N.J. lockdown by saying,

[T]he Governor's executive order tracks every other executive order that has a stay at home provision and none of those—none of those—contain an exemption for firearm stores, nor does the federal guidance from Homeland Security contain that type of exemption when it comes to essential facilities and nonessential facilities. So, we're consistent with every other executive order that calls for stay at home. We're consistent with federal guidelines and we'll defend the Governor's executive order in court.

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70 responses to “DHS Adds Workers for Gunmakers, Gun Retailers, and Shooting Ranges to "Essential Critical Infrastructure" List

  1. Is he just a bald-faced liar (above and beyond ordinary political lying), or was it true at some point that all other such lockdowns did not consider guns as essential, and he is just out of date, intentionally or not?

    1. Sorry, thought it was clear — Gerwal’s statement happened several days before this very recent development. (I’ve revised the post to note that expressly.) I can’t speak with confidence about what other lockdowns had provided back then (I believe New Jersey’s was one of the first), but certainly this DHS guidance wasn’t then available.

      1. Dang, Prof, facts are no fun. It’s hard to let an opportunity to sneer at politicians go by 🙂

        1. Grewal is a disgusting liberal savage who lies about immigration, lies about guns and basically everything else.

  2. I don’t have a problem with this. The problem I do have are those people who think that during an emergency is the time to arm themselves.

    It’s bad enough that 90 year old NRA members have arsenals they will never need or require – now we have n00bs who have never shot a gun who will most likely accidentally shoot the delivery guy who is bringing them their vodka delivery. Wait – vodka would be NRA members. Their beer delivery.

    1. Dumbass.

      1. Open wider, clingers.

        1. Ah, finally. The correct usage of “clingers” — the context is gun ownership.

          I encourage you, as the election approaches, to use this term, and shout loudly how Biden or whoever the Democratic candidate is, wants to take guns from these sad folk clinging to their guns.

          Don’t be shy! Let all of America know your intent, so they can take it into account when voting!

          Again, do not be shy!

          1. I believe our constitution safeguards possession of a reasonable firearm in the home.

            I also believe the backlash of better Americans against guns nuts could threaten that right.

            I expect the side of our national political and cultural divide that prefers reason, progress, tolerance, modernity, education, inclusiveness, and science (the liberal-libertarian mainstream) to continue to prevail against the side that prefers backwardness, bigotry, superstition, dogma, insularity, and belligerent ignorance (conservatives and Republicans).

            Gun nuts and anti-abortion absolutists hardest hit. Good and hard.

            1. Out of curiosity: can you offer an illustration of a proposed restriction on gun ownership that you consider unreasonable?

              1. Forbidding a person to practice at a safe shooting range.

                Forbidding a person to own a reasonable firearm (such as a shotgun or pistol).

                Forbidding a person to keep a reasonable firearm in the home for self-defense.

                Forbidding a person to own or possess a firearm consequent to a non-violent (with threats of violence constituting violence in this context) conviction.

                Forbidding a person to engage in a documented transfer of a firearm to a qualified recipient.

                Forbidding all sales or purchases of firearms.

                1. Ah, but you have to know that the devil is in the details.

                  You don’t have to forbid somebody to practice at a safe shooting range, if you can arrange for none to be available.

                  You don’t have to forbid someone to own a “reasonable” firearm, if you have an unreasonable definition of “unreasonable”.

                  Virtually every gun controller claims to only want “reasonable” gun control. But then the Supreme court in the Heller decision overturned the nation’s most restrictive gun control law, bar any, and which advocate of gun control said, “Fair enough, D.C. was being unreasonable.”?

                  Practically none of them. Instead they were outraged, and vowed to overturn it.

                  1. You don’t have to forbid somebody to practice at a safe shooting range, if you can arrange for none to be available.

                    You don’t have to forbid someone to own a “reasonable” firearm, if you have an unreasonable definition of “unreasonable”.

                    There are courts to adjudicate these things Brett.

                    And I thought Heller was rightly decided at the time and still do now. I think the Second Amendment calls for a Switzerland-style armed populace, with gun ownership treated as a civic responsibility, with gun owners having an obligation to come to the defense of the state if the militia is organized, just like the Constitution says.

                    And thus plenty of laws that deprive the populace of the ability to keep and bear firearms are unconstitutional.

                    I also think that any regulations that try to get at the cancer that is American gun culture- the incessant sales of guns, the fantasies of overthrowing the US government by force, the marketing of guns as sexy and hypermasculine, the encouragement of stockpiling of weapons, etc., are very likely to be constitutional.

                    Owning a gun is a solemn responsibility, and a constitutionally protected one.

                    1. Yes, there are courts to adjudicate things like these. And how long did the courts uphold Jim Crow after the Supreme court deliberately gutted the 14th amendment in the Slaughterhouse cases? For generations! The Supreme court spent close to 80 years after the Miller decision, refusing certiori without any explanation to every last case where the 2nd amendment was raised as an issue by the parties, while the lower courts worked hard to reduce it to insignificance.

                      The courts are very unreliable about upholding civil liberties in the absence of a strong political movement supporting them.

                      Worse than that. The US has developed a bifurcated culture. There’s the culture of the general populace, and the culture of the ruling elites, systematically different cultures, with different values and attitudes, and the judiciary are mainly members of the latter culture. They often abuse their position to enforce the one culture’s values on the other, even if it takes twisting clear constitutional language.

                      “I also think that any regulations that try to get at the cancer that is American gun culture- the incessant sales of guns, the fantasies of overthrowing the US government by force, the marketing of guns as sexy and hypermasculine, the encouragement of stockpiling of weapons, etc., are very likely to be constitutional.”

                      You see, that’s the sort of attitude towards the exercise of a civil liberty that tends to make somebody tolerant of violations, and hostile to its defense. Precious few people can whole-heartedly defend a right they despise the exercise of. Even if you think you’re one of those precious few, it’s going to shade your consideration of cases on the margin.

                      What’s this “cancer” of yours doing that’s so horrible? Remember when they predicted shall issue concealed carry would cause blood to flow in the streets? OK, you don’t like it. Then don’t join in.

                    2. I wholeheartedly defend the right, as set forth in the Constitution.

                      And regulations of gun owners who don’t act like responsible people who can form a militia to defend the free state are perfectly constitutional under that text.

                  2. “Virtually every gun controller claims to only want ‘reasonable’ gun control.”
                    I don’t see any need for regulation on people who handle their responsibilities. Ideally, that would be self-managing. But there are too many people who want the right to apply without restrictions, to people who don’t handle their responsibilities like adults. In other words, I only want gun control for unreasonable people.

                  3. “You don’t have to forbid somebody to practice at a safe shooting range, if you can arrange for none to be available.”

                    Most of what makes an unsafe shooting range a shooting range that is unsafe comes from the people who shoot there.

              2. “Reasonable firearm” is a code phrase based on the use of “reasonable” in the District of Columbia v. Heller decision. He’s basically saying “the absolute minimum degree of gun rights that the law says I have to let you have, I’ll let you have”.

    2. “It’s bad enough that 90 year old NRA members have arsenals they will never need or require”

      Unless they have something somebody else wants, like for example provisions during an emergency during which the police are de-escalating for fear of infection.

      1. “Unless they have something somebody else wants, like for example provisions during an emergency ”

        Or, for other example, they have a collection of weapons which can be used to take goods from other people.

    3. Surely no exaggeration there. I remember how all the anti gun predictions of blazing gun battles and blood in the streets came true. Don’t let being wrong stop you from doubling down on the blood and gore.
      IANAL, so please excuse me for not knowing about the needs or requires test in the 2A. What the hell, the guy in your example made it 90 years without shooting anyone, he’ll probably make it a few more.

      An emergency is the right time to buy a gun. The predators see an opportunity and the proposed victims need to be able to respond appropriately.

      1. Gun nuttery is a fetish like any other: obsessive to the obsessed, but barely comprehensible to the rational outsider. But it does have one distinction unique to all other fetishes : Gun nuts need to feel significant.

        Take any other fetish – say, men dressing-up in women’s clothing. If I had to guess, I bet a group of transvestites would be happily content to natter away on high heels & dress size. But get a bunch of true gun nuts together and inevitably they begin to discuss how important their obsession is, desperate to feel their fixation is critical, noble, heroic, and – yes – essential. Professor Blackman recently suggested that guns will prove more essential than toilet paper in these times. Folks, that is Nut Grandiosity in high form. My money is on toilet paper winning that battle.

        So I applaud all these recent moves to placate gun nuts. Short of an actual Zombie Apocalypse, this is probably the one time in their lives when the poor things get to truly feel relevant – and it will be over all too soon. We should humor them while we can….

        1. grb thinks that a cursory understanding of firearms, firearm laws, and the firearms community fed to him by an equally ignorant media is more accurate than the knowledge and experience of those who actually own and shoot firearms, and study the issues around them.

          1. Well, my “cursory understanding of firearms” survived six years in the Army National Guard, where I qualified in the high end of Sharpshooter on the M-16 and Expert on the M-203. To be fair, all five or six of us test on the range scored expert in the latter. Close counts in grenades, ya know….

            1. sure, gr, and on the internet no one knows if you are a dog. But we see your tail wagging.

              1. FYI, a lot of the military people I know, who were scrupulously taught firearms safety, think the folks who are neck deep in the gun culture are dangerous lunatics.

                Every once in awhile, there’s a story of some guy with 30 guns in his home who accidentally shoots his friend while they were drunk and playing with a gun or something. What do you think military veterans think about that?

                1. Hopefully they think, “This is a nation of 330 million people, and one case like that every couple of years is all they can come up with? Maybe those people aren’t that dangerous after all.”

                  There’s this disconnect between visceral attitudes and rational calculation, that you can see in someone who thinks, “This huge movement consists of dangerous lunatics!” and doesn’t notice the supposedly dangerous lunatics inexplicably aren’t causing problems on a mass scale.

        2. Hoplophobes say there are only 100 million gun owners in the US. Strange how so many gun nutters can cause so little mayhem and so few people are aware of them in spite of their outspoken flamboyant nuttery.

          1. Up your reading comprehension a bit and you’ll see I wasn’t criticizing nutters for causing mayhem, but laughing at their obsessive need to feel their obsession is “heroic”, “important” and “essential”. That is (I’m sad to say) a defining part of Nut Psychology.

            And completely impervious to reason. I’ll give an example: There was a murder on the Appalachian Trail this past year. Having hiked the AT during my Great Recession unemployment period, I read the articles and followed thru into the comments. These were swarming with gun nuts saying it was “madness” not to be armed and freely dispensing practiced tough-guy one-liners like Goju above. But they seemed rational types, so many normal people – particularly hikers – tried to reason with’em.

            (1) We noted the odds of being murdered on the AT were somewhere around one in twenty million. That only about one murder occurs every 10-15 years, and if you assume a gun might stop every third death, carrying by every single hiker might prevent one crime every half-century or so. (God alone knows how this horrific scenario would tally on the other side of the ledger) We laid out real numbers & odds, but they made no difference to the Nuts.

            (2) Hikers noted the impracticality of Nut Bravado. Every bit of weight is critical when you carry your world on your back. My guidebook weighed a mere few ounces, but I tore it up and had individual pages sent with my food drops. What are the odds a hiker would carry something so completely useless as a gun? Several people noted the extra food equivalent in weight. The Nuts were not impressed.

            (3) I tried this on them : You say a gun still has a chance to save your life, however microscopic the odds. Well, what about everything else that meets the same mathematical criteria? Do you imagine a hiker pulling a cart over rough terrain – that cart piled high with every possible item that has an equal chance of critical use?

            But of course that argument fell on deaf ears too. Gut nuts want significance for their obsession, and will torture reason to find it. If people bought guns like they did any other tool – on the real odds that tool will or won’t be needed – two things would happen : (a) There would be millions upon millions fewer guns in this country, and (b) The U.S. will be a much, much better place……

            1. Why would the US be a better place if people bought fewer guns? You claim you aren’t disparaging guns or gun mayhem, only gun nutters. Why does it matter how many guns people own, if they are not causing mayhem? Thus you illustrate your admitted irrational fear of guns and gun owners.

              1. The US would be a better place if people bought fewer guns for several reasons:

                1. Many guns get stolen, and there’s a huge market for stolen guns, which then get used in crimes.

                2. There are many crimes of passion and domestic violence where the presence of firearms in the home play a role.

                3. There are tons of accidental shootings in homes with firearms.

                4. There are tons of suicides with firearms.

                Now, having said that, a properly secured firearm can play a role in home defense, especially with a highly trained and skilled gun owner who treats the weapon as a tool and with respect. So I am not in here claiming that there’s no countervailing value here. But, suffice to say, the gun culture markets to irresponsible idiots who think guns are fun masculine toys, not to the guy who makes one gun purchase for protection his entire life and maintains it safely for use in an emergency.

              2. Exactly. When you’re complaining about “gun nutters” and only able to point to hypothetical harms, or harms that would exist anyway, what’s on display is emotional preferences, not reason.

                1) There’s a huge black market in guns. There’s a huge black market in meth, too. Is that a consequence of the legal market in meth? Black markets don’t require white markets to exist!

                2) But most gun crimes aren’t “crimes of passion and domestic violence”, they’re crimes by people who were already violent criminals, often against people who were violent criminals. Even where people shoot somebody in their own family, if you investigate you discover it’s just a case of violent criminals also having families, and not sparing them from their predation.

                3) No, there aren’t tons of accidental shootings. Accidental shootings are dwarfed by deaths from falling off ladders, they don’t even make the top ten causes of accidental death.

                4) You don’t want people to commit suicide, do something about them getting suicidal.

                1. The black market in guns is very much a consequence of the flooding of the legal market with guns. In countries where there are very few gun thefts, it is also much more difficult to purchase a gun illegally than it is here. And that leads directly to lower rates of gun crimes.

                  You have a lot of people in this country who do very little to secure their weapons. If we had a registration and insurance system that would impose huge costs on people who fail to secure their weapons, that could solve that problem, but the gun rights lobby trafficks in tinfoil hat paranoia about the government taking away weapons and ignores the real problem which is that private individuals take away people’s weapons all the time- and sell them or use them in crime.

                  1. Is that so? I haven’t seen any evidence that getting a black market gun in Europe is really any harder than it is here. And if our “legal” gun supply was cut off, the cartels would immediately begin smuggling them into the country. And unlike the drugs they have no issues doing that with, the guns are not consumables.

                  2. Got a lot of people who do very little to secure their books and printers, too. And personal property of all sorts.

                    I’d say your approach to this fully justifies any amount of “tinfoil had paranoia”. You basically want to subject an explicitly guaranteed civil liberty to a system of strict liability for the consequences of somebody else committing a crime. That’s not the way civil liberties get treated. That’s not the way ownership of objects that don’t directly implicate civil liberties get treated!

                    I’ve got a can of gasoline in my garage, for the mower. Often the garage is wide open, while I’m in the backyard doing something. Anybody could waltz right in, grab that can, and commit arson.

                    And would I be liable? No, of course I wouldn’t. Nobody holds you legally liable if you’re burglarized, and the burglar goes on to use his ill gotten goods to commit some other crime.

                    But you would, because you want to make exercising this civil right legally perilous.

        3. Ascribing psychological deficiencies to one’s ideological opponents is fun and makes for easy arguing points. It makes the opponents suspicious of your intentions, but nobody cares about such defectives anyway.

      2. Emergencies are exactly the times democracy and freedom fail, as rights are stripped away by giving emergency powers to the leaders, who never give it up.

        Emergencies are the most important time for The People to keep an eye on their fundamental rights.

      3. “Surely no exaggeration there. I remember how all the anti gun predictions of blazing gun battles and blood in the streets came true. Don’t let being wrong stop you from doubling down on the blood and gore.”

        Thank goodness there’s never been a time in all of American history where there were gun battles in the streets.

    4. It’s not that as much as the uniformed soldiers (i.e. National Guard) going door-to-door in Rhode Island. The “preppers” fear that the Army is going to come steal their food, and I fear that this will turn into a “shoot first” situation./

      But it’s not just guns — Molotov Cocktails, Punji Sticks, Deadfalls (trees cut to fall on demand) — if you’re paranoid enough and have had enough prep time, it’s not difficult to kill someone walking onto your property.

      And I fear that it’s gonna happen….

      1. The classic is the Native American trick of the sprung Birch tree — you get a rope around your ankle and wind up swinging upside-down off the ground. I’m not going to say how to do it, but it isn’t difficult — the Boy Scouts used to teach this.

    5. Assume much?

    6. Isn’t an emergency exactly the time to arm yourself? When you’re worried about the long term stability and safety of the environment and society?

      1. The working theory is that you should plan ahead so you have what you need in an emergency. That’s why you can’t buy TP at the moment.

    7. If one does not already have a minimum level of armament, then the time to arm up self is _now_ – regardless of whether “now” is a time of emergency. However, an emergency is less than an ideal time, as supply and demand will likely lead to higher cost and perhaps limited choices.

      It’s not up to you to decide what any other person needs, outside of those for whom you are responsible, e.g. children. It doesn’t matter whether that person is in their 90s, 50s, 30s, or whatever. It doesn’t matter if that person is an NRA/GOA member or not. One of the worst attributes of the US political left (and to a lesser extent, the political right), is their fundamental belief that they know better what every US citizen needs, and they want those citizens to get it good and hard.

      You’re making an assumption that those who have decided to purchase a firearm due to the circumstances around COVID-19 are “n00bs”, which might very well be accurate. For example, based on a wide array of factors, including the recent announcement by Cincinnati PD that they would no longer be responding to burglaries, I’ve determined that my personal defense posture is deficient, and I’ll be remedying that problem soon. I used to be in the Army Reserve, and I’ve fired and maintained M1911 and 92F pistols, plus the other common long arms (though I won’t be picking up any of those models – things have come a long way). There’s no reason to assume that all, or even most, of those recently purchasing a new firearm are inexperienced or untrained, even if it’s their first firearm acquisition.

      The assumption that the pizza delivery guy (a common stand-in for innocents) is going to be shot is simply a tired echo of the myriad of hyperbolic warnings which gun grabbers, from the old HCI to more recently formed groups, have been yammering about for literally decades. Per those groups, every part of the nation which relaxed any restrictive gun law at all was long ago supposed to have become like the OK Corral in a low-budget western. The US rate of violence, including murder, has been generally declining, while per capita firearm ownership has been increasing – that, too, has been happening for decades.

      1. (sigh) s/accurate/inaccurate/ and strike “self” from the first sentence. Also, I wish there were a preview button…

      2. “It’s not up to you to decide what any other person needs, outside of those for whom you are responsible, e.g. children. It doesn’t matter whether that person is in their 90s, 50s, 30s, or whatever. It doesn’t matter if that person is an NRA/GOA member or not. One of the worst attributes of the US political left (and to a lesser extent, the political right), is their fundamental belief that they know better what every US citizen needs, and they want those citizens to get it good and hard.”

        Questioning whether it’s a “need” or a “want” remains fair.

  3. Setting up all the chess pieces for the coming legal war.

  4. I truly don’t understand what makes gun stores particularly essential. Under the current conditions, everything that can be closed should be closed, and firearms aren’t a daily necessity like food or medicine. There’s no need to put gun store employees or gun buyers at risk by keeping gun stores open. If you need a gun, you can buy it in a few weeks or months.

    1. Sorry, that’s not the way constitutional rights work.

      1. If you are contending that the absolutists are correct, that explains why child pornography, fraudulent statements about securities, and publications of troop movements are constitutionally protected and lawful.

      2. It’s rare, but I agree with RestoreWestern, at least to this extent. It should be straightforward to lawfully purchase a gun during the pandemic, under whatever the legal restrictions were during a non-emergency time.

        Now, that wouldn’t necessarily mean every single gun store would need to stay open- if there’s a pandemic related reason to close a gun store (say a gun store whose owner-operator tested positive and refuses to self-quarantine) and alternatives remained open for purchasing guns, that’s one thing.

        But it is a constitutional right, and that means you should be able to exercise it.

        1. Is shoplifting from a gun store Constitutionally protected?

      3. “Sorry, that’s not the way constitutional rights work.”

        Except in a pandemic.

    2. I truly don’t understand what makes gun stores particularly essential

      If the actual motivation is hate of the second amendment, though…

    3. Votes are used far less often than guns. Let’s just postpone elections indefinitely too, shall we?

      1. Indeed, who needs to vote more than once, anyway? Why do people get to change their mind and vote again and again, keeping the incumbents (at least theoretically) insecure in their jobs?

    4. Law enforcement uses guns and ammunition.

      What happens when they need to use force to enforce quarantines or suppress riots?

      If they shut down all the gun shops, and all the manufacturers of guns and ammunition, how are law enforcement agencies supposed to restock their supplies if it comes to that?

      1. “What happens when they need to use force to enforce quarantines or suppress riots? ”

        I’m not certain “cops need to shoot more people” is a sentiment I can get behind…

    5. One big issue right now is that police rank second to healthcare workers for infection rates. NYPD apparently has almost 10% of its officers calling in sick, 3-4 times the normal rate. NJSP appear to be having a similar problem, as well as is occurring in departments around the country. Big departments across the country are already moving specialists to patrol, and ordering mandatory overtime. At least for the NYPD, and likely other police departments, it isn’t clear yet whether COVID-19 infection will be considered work related, though it very likely is.

      Social distancing and effective policing appear to be mutually exclusive. Police have to get within infection range to pat suspects down for weapons (e.g. Terry Stops), as well as to arrest or temporarily detain people. Etc. The very logical response by both police departments and police officers is less intense policing. We are already seeing it, with departments curtailing arrests for anything that isn’t a violent felony. This hasn’t been an issue so far, with most of the country cooperating in self quarantining, and consequently experiencing lower crime rates. That won’t last. And when it ends, criminality is likely to surge back to pre-shutdown levels, maybe even higher, as junkies need to make up for lost opportunities to support their habits, etc. All while police departments remain short staffed.

      The traditional justification for justifying that people don’t need guns to defend themselves is that that is the job of the police. But, at least for the near future, the police are going to be less able and willing to do so. That is when personal possession of firearms becomes more attractive, and for some, more necessary. Not making things easier, the places where this dynamic appears most critical, are in the most densely populated parts of the country, most vulnerable to COVID-19, and with the strictest gun laws.

      1. “One big issue right now is that police rank second to healthcare workers for infection rates. NYPD apparently has almost 10% of its officers calling in sick, 3-4 times the normal rate.”

        Blue flu

    6. ” If you need a gun, you can buy it in a few weeks or months.”

      If you need a gun, you should already have one.

  5. It seems to me that this places folks in the gun industry in high risk positions along with other workers in essential industries like grocery stores and healthcare workers. One would expect higher rates of infection in such workers and their families. Naming something an essential industry keeps people employed, but at the end of the day it may be viewed of as a type of discrimination if higher infection rates and mortality are the price. Query whether workers compensation might be used to cover illness/death in these industries.

  6. How are we supposed to kill those viruses if we got no guns??

    1. When you run out of ammo for all your guns you just switdh to the chainsaw. Have you never played Doom?

  7. I don’t think the government should close gun producers and retailers for being inessential. I think management of these businesses should close them for being inessential.

    1. “I think management of these businesses should close them for being inessential.”

      Then who keeps law enforcement supplied with guns and ammo when the riots start?

      1. “Then who keeps law enforcement supplied with guns and ammo when the riots start?”

        The police departments I’m familiar with don’t rush out to buy guns or ammo when a riot starts. They have armories and buy both guns-n-ammo in large lots from wholesalers, not from a local retailer.

        1. “The police departments I’m familiar with don’t rush out to buy guns or ammo when a riot starts. They have armories and buy both guns-n-ammo in large lots from wholesalers, not from a local retailer.”

          If the riots last long enough, they will have to restock the armories in the middle. and the DHS didn’t just add gun retail workers to the essential list. It added the manufacturers too.

          Several state governors have ordered gun / ammunition manufacturers to close. How will the PD buy ammo wholesale when all the manufacturers and wholesalers are shut down?

        2. And rhey do their buying well in advance, according to a long-established plan (and budget)

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