Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds the Governor’s Forced Closure of Gun Shops

Gov. Wolf’s order banning gun shops has been allowed to stand. (Photo: Gov. Tom Wolf Facebook)

Update (3/25, 11:45AM CT): In a surprising turn of events, Governor Wolf has revised his “stay at home” order to allow gun shops to conduct firearm transfers.

The new provision allows gun shops to “operate physical businesses on a limited basis to complete only the portions of a sale/transfer that must be conducted in-person under the law, 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.”

“Gov. Wolf’s change of heart is a welcome display of good sense and constitutional adherence,” said Second Amendment Foundation founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb. “Perhaps some other state governors could take a lesson from Wolf as they issue so-called ‘stay-at-home’ orders. SAF currently has a federal lawsuit against New Jersey, and we are working on lawsuits against Washington, Massachusetts and jurisdictions in California and North Carolina, among others.

“We are witnessing what amounts to an epiphany for many Americans during this crisis, as they remember what the Second Amendment is about,” Gottlieb continued. “Those who think suspending a constitutional right is acceptable because a virus is a health threat are truly mixing the proverbial apples and oranges to suit their own agendas.”

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused on Sunday to review the governor’s “stay at home” order, effectively upholding a ban on gun shops and curtailing Pennsylvania citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

Governor Tom Wolf’s order took effect on Monday and directed citizens to shelter in place while closing all businesses not deemed to aid in “sustaining life.” The Firearms Policy Coalition joined several other plaintiffs to challenge the order in the state supreme court on the grounds that it infringes on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

The court denied the challenge without addressing the plaintiff’s Second Amendment arguments, but Justices David Wecht, Kevin Dougherty, and Christine Donohue filed a Concurring and Dissenting Statement disagreeing with the decision.

They argue that since federal law prohibits gun shops from transferring firearms without meeting the prospective buyer in-person, the governor’s order amounts to an “absolute and indefinite” suspension of constitutional rights.

“Quite simply, if firearm dealers are not able to conduct any business in-person at their licensed premises, then no transfers of firearms can be completed,” they note. “This amounts to an absolute and indefinite prohibition upon the acquisition of firearms by the citizens of this Commonwealth—a result in clear tension with the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution …it is incumbent upon the Governor to make some manner of allowance for our citizens to continue to exercise this constitutional right.”

SEE ALSO: CZ-USA Shuts Down Facilities Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Pennsylvania isn’t alone in its disregard for the Second Amendment. New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy issued his own shelter in place order that included a specific provision to close the state’s background check system. Not only are gun shops not permitted to be open, but even if they disregarded the order, they wouldn’t be able to conduct lawful firearms transfers.

The Second Amendment Foundation is suing Gov. Murphy in the U.S. District Court for the State of New Jersey, and the case is still ongoing.

Some states have tried to balance slowing the spread of COVID-19 with a respect for constitutional rights. Illinois (believe it or not) included “firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security” in its list of essential businesses and is allowing gun shops to remain open.

SEE ALSO: New York Suspends Pistol Permitting, Shuts Down Remington in Response to COVID-19

Justice Wecht noted that Gov. Wolf could easily balance safety with constitutional rights by allowing gun shops to remain open only for the purpose of completing the portion of a transfer that must be conducted in-person. Just like restaurants are allowed to keep their drive-through and takeout services open, so too could gun shops be allowed to continue completing background checks and firearm transfers.

“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,” he concluded.

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About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over four years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Waco. Follow him on Instagram @bornforgoodluck and email him at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • J May 23, 2020, 4:12 pm

    We know why now the Court upheld his orders, not laws….the democrats were ballot stuffing for judges🤔so in times like this, the courts would side with them. Remove those unconstitutional judges.

  • steve a April 4, 2020, 4:26 pm

    Could you please in the future indicate which political party these politicians are so proudly affiliated with.
    Such as D for Democrat or Despicable
    or R for Republican or Right to bare arms.

  • Hydguy March 29, 2020, 12:36 am

    They are about to get smacked down now that DHA has declared them ‘essential businesses’

  • Altoids March 27, 2020, 4:28 pm

    I sincerely hope people are taking notes and will remember those governors and other elected officials come November.

    And oh yeah, it’s time to clean out the communist controlled cobweb known as the House of Representatives at the same time.

  • Russ March 27, 2020, 1:26 pm

    Once again scumbag vile liberals preventing American citizens from buying things they should be able to buy in a time of crisis. Voters should remember this come election time.

  • Nicholas March 27, 2020, 10:49 am

    “The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. “A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.” And further, that ordinarily, when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.” United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174

    Miller addresses, correctly, the meaning of the 2nd, in which the amendment states that “Militia is necessary to the security of a free State”, as a law clearly institutionalized in the original Constitution. That Militia is all able-body men, that they MUST supply themselves with a suitable weapon, and that “The possession of arms also implied the possession of ammunition” was an important aspect of the law.

    It is apparent to me that we will lose our rights before the American people are willing to abide by the law they demand their representatives and the courts corrupt.

    It is also clear that the words in the Declaration of Independence mean nothing at all to the vast majority of American’s. “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The U.S, Constitution begins “We the People” echoing the words in the Declaration. The Declaration goes on to say “That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it”. In turn, the Constitution recognizes “the Militia of the several States”, which the Framers understood as “the whole people” to be the only authority with the power “to execute the Laws of the Union”.

    The Declaration of the relationship between governments and the people they serve is completely lost to the world. There are few who understand that governments are to be subservient to the people. Yet we are not only abandoning that principle, we are also demanding more usurpation of the structured authority that is “necessary to the security of a free State”.

  • Robert P Boitt March 27, 2020, 9:05 am

    Wolf is a leftist Communist! Truly a Wolf in sheeps clothing. Pretends to be an average middle class citizen with his jeans and baseball cap, he is ELITE as they come and wants total control over the people in PA.

  • M. Hudson March 27, 2020, 7:44 am

    As of yesterday the new rules are : stores open for limited hours, sales of firearms by appointment, shops must adhere to precautions ie social distancing. Three SCJ informed Gov. office of the illegality of his previous ban which was then recended.
    Gov Wolf nor his office announced his reversal.

    • Shaun McKinsey March 27, 2020, 3:27 pm

      That is true. …Just reversed yesterday.

      This Governor is the worst.

  • Gus March 27, 2020, 7:33 am

    He “changed his mind” because he was sitting on a bomb of his own creation that was ready to go off in his own face. This crisis has been a wake up call for Americans to realize just how fragile and special the 2nd Amendment really is, as well as crucial for the Freedom of it’s people to choose THEIR own fate. Now that some local governments have tried to take it away, they are realizing just what is actually at stake.

  • JCB March 27, 2020, 6:48 am

    This has been reversed . I outcry was so big that he had to take note of the political outcome. Gun shops are open in PA.

    • srsquidizen March 27, 2020, 8:23 am

      There was likely pressure from within his own party. His blatant anti-2A behavior was handing a critical swing state to Trump on a silver platter come November. Smarter Democrat politicians (excuse the oxymoron) are coming to realize that infringing on people’s right to defend themselves, especially in the current situation, is quickly becoming politically toxic.

      • Gustafson March 27, 2020, 10:00 am

        No reversal by Wolf and no pressure by his party or any other. This was purely and simply a decision of the courts. Do not give Wolf credit where credit is NOT due.

  • Dr Motown March 26, 2020, 8:50 am

    We can only hope that this new interest in guns, from a segment of citizens that usually don’t care about the topic, will produce some changes at the ballot box…

  • De March 25, 2020, 10:07 am

    It looks as though this has been reversed. At least for transfers.

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