Charlotte gun store owner speaks on business being deemed ‘essential’

Gun shops considered essential businesses under "stay at home" order in Mecklenburg Co.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Hyatt Guns is one of many businesses in a busy west Charlotte shopping center off Wilkinson Blvd. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some stores in the shopping center have temporarily closed.

The Habitat for Humanity Restore and the Rainbow clothing store have both closed. The Popeye’s restaurant is still serving customers, but the dining room is now closed. Hyatt Guns is still open for business.

WBTV spoke to the Larry Hyatt, the owner of the shop, in an interview Thursday afternoon.

“Starting March 13, Friday the 13th to now is the busiest it’s ever been in the 61 years that we’ve been in business,” said Hyatt.

The business owner said restrictions have been put in place at the store. There are multiple signs up inside of the building that encourage customers to practice social distancing. Customers are also being told to call and make appointments before coming in the shop to reduce the risk of a large crowd forming at the business.

“Six feet apart, hand sanitizers, keeping our distance from the customers cause our guys, they don’t want to get sick either,” said Hyatt about the safety measures currently in place at the gun shop.

Hyatt Guns isn’t the only gun store in Charlotte that’s still open. Blackstone Shooting Sports on Wilkinson Blvd. is also still operating. The business posted on Facebook that it would it still be operating and explained that Blackstone is ‘an essential business relating to safety and security’.

Hyatt said he too thinks gun stores are an essential business during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you have a family you want to protect and you’re worried about crime, it is your right to own a gun,” said Hyatt.

Norma Houston, a faculty member with the UNC School of Government, explained to WBTV who is responsible for deeming a business essential or non-essential.

“It is up to the city or the county that imposes that local restriction to define what is essential and what is not,” said Houston.

Mecklenburg County is responsible for imposing the “stay-at-home” order that county residents and businesses are currently adhering to. The order does note that firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers are essential businesses for purposes of safety and security.

Houston also spoke about the possibility of a gun store being deemed non-essential.

“It is my opinion so long as a gun store is not treated any differently than any other business, then the city or county could impose restrictions on that business operation,” explained Houston.

She said it would be possible for a gun store to challenge the restriction in the court of law.

“Whether or not a court would determine the degree of the restriction to be reasonable would be based on the facts of the situation,” said Houston.

Copyright 2020 WBTV. All rights reserved.