Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered all “non-life sustaining” businesses in the state closed in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but the emergency declaration doesn’t specifically address the issue of gun stores. Wolf’s order specifies which industries will be allowed to continue to operate and which are ordered closed, but “gun stores” doesn’t appear on either side of the governor’s ledger.
According to the governor’s list, “Sporting goods, hobby and musical instrument stores” are not allowed to remain open, and while plenty of sporting goods stores sell firearms and ammunition, not every store that sells firearms and ammunition is a sporting goods store. Adding to the confusion, “fishing, hunting and trapping” are considered life-sustaining industries, so they will be allowed to operate. If Pennsylvanians are still allowed to hunt and trap under the governor’s order, they’re going to need access to firearms and ammunition.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of confusion and anger over the governor’s order.
Citing his authority under the state’s disaster declaration law, Wolf, a Democrat, ordered more than 150 types of businesses to close their physical locations, warning that enforcement against violators would begin Saturday. It was among the toughest measures yet taken by a U.S. governor in response to the virus pandemic. It also drew fierce condemnation from majority Republicans in the Legislature.
“I had hoped for voluntary compliance so our public safety officials could focus on assisting with the crisis,” Wolf said in a video statement. “Unfortunately we have not seen full compliance. We have no time to lose.”
Wolf said his order would be enforced by state troopers, local officials, the state Health and Agriculture departments and the Liquor Control Board. The two-term governor had previously said he would not use police for enforcement.
Businesses that fail to comply risk citations, fines or license suspensions, and “forfeit their ability to receive any applicable disaster relief and/or may be subject to other appropriate administrative action,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.
Criminal prosecution is also a possibility, with violators subject to fines or imprisonment, Wolf’s office said.
I suspect that Wolf will claim gun stores fall under the “sporting goods” or “miscellaneous retail” categories, and are non-essential, and it sounds like pushback may be coming today.
According to US News & World Report, Republicans in the statehouse are weighing their response. Several House members are talking about filing a lawsuit and challenging the order in court, while their Senate counterparts are demanding the governor add “more transparency and the opportunity for business owners to appeal” in his order.
I’m all in favor of filing a lawsuit challenging the governor’s order, particularly if we see it applied to any of the state’s gun stores. Firearms retailers across the state are reporting long lines and lots of first-time gun buyers, and as we reported yesterday, some gun store owners in Philadelphia were vowing to remain open because of the essential nature of their business.
The right to keep and bear arms is never more essential than during a time of an emergency, and if Wolf does try to enforce his order against gun stores there are going to be thousands of Pennsylvanians who will be deprived of their right to keep and bear arms and their human right of self-defense. The governor has allowed beer and wine retailers to continue to operate as essential businesses, but he wants to close gun stores? It is absolutely asinine to claim that Pennsylvanians have a right to imbibe, but not a right to protect themselves.