Gun retailers can operate in their parking lots during the pandemic, ATF says

Various rifles on display at a gun store in Virginia on January 16, 2020.

(CNN)Gun retailers operating during the coronavirus pandemic will now be able to offer curbside service.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) announced on Friday that federally licensed firearms businesses could carry out transactions through drive-up windows and temporary booths in their parking lots or other parts of their property. Those transactions include verifying customer identity, completing paperwork, accepting payment and delivering firearms and ammunition.
"An FFL may carry out the requested activities through a drive-up or walk-up window or doorway where the customer is on the licensee's property on the exterior of the brick and mortar structure at the address listed on the license," the guidance states.
"An FFL may also carry out the requested activities from a temporary table or booth located in a parking lot or other exterior location on the licensee's property at the address listed on the license, but any such activities must occur in a location where the licensee has the authority to permit ATF's entry for inspection purposes," it continued.
    Federal firearms licensees cannot carry out such activities from spaces that are not located on the property of the address listed on their license, unless that takes place at a qualified in-state gun show or event.
    The ATF said the guidelines came in response to questions from industry members about whether they could legally conduct business outside of their brick-and-mortar stores. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade group, said last month that it had asked for more clarity on how retailers could operate during the national emergency.

    Gun retailers deemed 'essential'

    As states around the country issue "stay-at-home" orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus, firearms and ammunitions retailers have been classified as essential businesses, according to updated guidance from the federal government.
    A March 28 memo from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the Homeland Security Department identified "workers supporting the operation of firearm or ammunition product manufacturers, retailers, importers, distributors, and shooting ranges" as part of the nation's essential critical infrastructure workforce.
    The list is intended to be advisory and not to be considered "the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue during the Covid-19 response across all jurisdictions." The advisory states that jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own needs and discretion.
    More than 40 states and the District of Columbia have issued stay-at-home orders that have closed or otherwise restricted nonessential businesses. Some states haven't specifically mentioned firearm retailers in their lists of essential businesses, so they're assumed to be nonessential.
    National guns rights groups have filed lawsuits in places where firearms retailers weren't specifically designated as essential.
      As the pandemic is unfolding, gun sellers across the country are reporting a surge in firearm and bullet purchases.
      Newly released data from the FBI shows a 41% surge in background checks by individuals attempting to purchase firearms in the US last month, a significant increase over the same period last year.