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Pennsylvania Supreme Court clears way for the governor to shut down gun stores indefinitely, citing the coronavirus

The order effectively shuts down all gun sales in the state

Whitney Hayward/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied a request by gun-rights advocates to exempt gun stores from an order mandating the closure of businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak in the state.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued the executive order on March 19, which forced the shutdown of all businesses in the state deemed not "life-sustaining" for an indefinite period of time, gun stores included.

What are the details?

Gun-rights advocates took issue with the inclusion of firearms retailers in the list of non life-sustaining businesses, and argued that the mandatory closures violated state and federal constitutional protections and interfered with citizens' Second Amendment rights. They brought their case before the state's Supreme Court, but on Sunday, the seven-member court denied their request.

One of the three dissenting judges, Justice David Wecht, called the order an "impermissible intrusion upon a fundamental constitutional right" and pointed to other industries that have received exemption from the shutdown. An example would be restaurants in the state, which have been permitted to operate in some 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 argued, making the case that gun stores could be permitted to operate in limited capacities. "Such an accommodation may be effectuated while preserving sensible restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, but nonetheless provide a legal avenue for the purchase and sale of firearms, thus avoiding an impermissible intrusion upon a fundamental constitutional right."

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Gov. Wolf argued that his order to close gun stores on an emergency basis "does not abridge the right to bear arms" because "it merely suspends — temporarily — a variety of stores from acting as centers of contagion."

Adam Kraut, the director of legal strategy for the Firearms Policy Coalition and one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the case, told the Free Beacon he is "disappointed" in the court's decision, especially at a time "when many are deciding that the ability to defends one's home and family is more necessary than ever."

Kraut's comments made reference to the national spike in gun sales in recent weeks.

"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?

For most other products normally purchased in stores, consumers are now going online to purchase and having the products delivered to their door. But in Pennsylvania, residents don't have that option as it pertains to firearms.

Under Pennsylvania law, citizens are required to physically pick up guns purchased online at gun stores. So the executive order closing gun stores is effectively shutting down gun sales in the state.

"Pennsylvanians cannot simply order a firearm online and enjoy home delivery, or curbside service, as many first-time gun buyers are finding out. Their politicians have been lying to them," Kraut noted.

The Free Beacon reported that plaintiffs in the case are now weighing an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

One last thing…
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