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Pennsylvania governor backtracks on gun store shutdown after pressure from Second Amendment advocates


A win for gun-rights advocates

Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf reversed course on his mandatory shutdown of all gun stores in the state Tuesday after gun-rights advocates fought against the measure.

Under the updated order, gun stores in the state will be permitted to remain open "on a limited basis to complete only the portions of a sale/transfer that must be conducted in-person under the law." The language is likely referring to the completion of a background check, which the state requires be done in person, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Additionally, the gun stores will be "subject to the following restrictions: 1) all such sale/transfers will be conducted by individual appointment during limited hours only so as to minimize social interactions and congregating of persons; 2) the dealer will comply with social distancing, sanitization of applicable area between appointments, and other mitigation measures to protect its employees and the public."

What's the background?

The governor had issued an executive order last week forcing the shutdown of all non "life-sustaining" businesses in the state — which included gun stores — for an indefinite period of time. Since state law requires citizens to physically pick up guns purchased online at firearm retailers, the order effectively banned all gun sales in the state.

Gun-rights advocates challenged the measure before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, arguing that the order unduly interfered with citizens' Second Amendment rights. But on Sunday, the court rejected their request for exemption from the order in a 4-3 decision.

One of the dissenting judges, Justice David Wecht, slammed the order as an "impermissible intrusion upon a fundamental constitutional right." He called attention to other businesses in the state that had received exemption from the shutdown, including restaurants who were permitted to operate in a limited capacity through take-out and delivery options.

"In my view, it is incumbent upon the Governor to make some manner of allowance for our citizens to continue to exercise this constitutional right," Wecht added.

In response to the initial ruling, Adam Kraut, the director of legal strategy for the Firearms Policy Coalition, called the decision "disappointing."

"The Governor's Order amounts to an absolute and indefinite prohibition on the acquisition of firearms by citizens of the Commonwealth," Kraut continued. "Such a prohibition cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny and directly infringes upon the core of the Second Amendment."

Anything else?

Kraut told the Washington Free Beacon he was pleased with the governor's updated decision to reverse the mandatory shutdown. He added that his team was reviewing the order and considering if any further legal action would be necessary.

"We are happy to see that it appears the governor has taken people's access to arms seriously and has provided a manner in which they can still obtain them during this unprecedented time," he said.

It appears that the Pennsylvania governor heard the concerns of Second Amendment-supporting citizens and acquiesced to some degree. The same cannot be said for New Jersey, the Free Beacon noted.

In New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has thus far maintained his coronavirus-related executive order, which effectively bans all gun sales in the state. There, Murphy has not only banned gun stores from operating but has also shut down the state's background check system.

Gun-rights advocates in New Jersey have filed a lawsuit challenging the ban.

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