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National gun groups sues Mass. over shop closings

A national gun rights group has filed a federal lawsuit against Attorney General Maura Healey and Governor Charlie Baker in an effort to allow firearms dealers to reopen during the COVID-19 crisis, the organization announced Thursday.

The Gun Owners of America, based in Virginia, joined more than a dozen other gun stores and manufacturers in suing Baker and Healey, claiming their Second Amendment rights have been violated and their businesses are suffering “immediate, irreparable, injuries,” according to the lawsuit.

The complaint, filed Wednesday in US District Court in Boston, is the second federal lawsuit in a week filed by gun shop owners seeking to reopen their businesses amid the pandemic. State officials have said the closings are necessary to slow the spread of coronavirus.

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The Department of Homeland Security designated the firearms industry as essential but Baker removed the firearms industry from the state’s list of essential businesses, forcing them to close until at least May 4.

“Governor Baker and AG Healey must do an about-face and uphold their oaths of office by respecting the Constitution and Bill of Rights,” Senior Vice President of GOA Erich Pratt said in a statement from the organization. “Many jurisdictions—even anti-gun states like New Jersey—have reopened gun stores and are now following the federal guidance. It’s time that Massachusetts follows this guidance as well.”'

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to lift the restrictions.

Spokespersons for Baker and Healey did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday night.

Andrew Couture, the Lemonister-based lawyer who filed the complaint, said the purpose of the suit is to protect small, family owned firearms stores. They’re struggling because they are not only closed, but they are not eligible for state programs providing financial assistance to other small businesses, he said.

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“These are these are mom and pop stores that operate on a shoestring budget to begin with,” he said in an interview. “Under the cloak of the COVID-19 scare, this is one way to bankrupt the entire gun industry in Massachusetts. All these mom and pop stores that service the Second Amendment community. . .they can’t get through this.”

Stephanie Purifoy can be reached at stephanie.purifoy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @steph_purifoy