Rarely do politicians approve of measures that take away their own powers, so it’s not exactly a shock that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that his office would veto a pair of bills that would take away his authority to ban the lawful sale and open carrying of firearms during a disaster declaration.
The bills, approved by the state Senate on Thursday on party-line votes, were introduced after Wolf originally shut down gun stores in the state back in the spring. Declaring the businesses to be “non-essential,” Wolf reversed course after the Trump administration released CISA guidance that included the firearms industry in its list of essential sectors of the economy, but Wolf still imposed restrictions on the number of customers that could be in a gun store at any given time, despite the fact that gun sales were already surging on increased demand by Americans concerned about lockdown-inspired unrest.
The bills are the latest to pass the Republican-controlled Legislature that sought to limit Wolf’s powers during the existing coronavirus disaster emergency and beyond. Wolf has vetoed more than a half-dozen such bills.
“The current disaster declarations in place are meant to help the administration fight the public health crises at hand and have no impact on citizens and their firearm rights,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.
Wolf imposed a stay-at-home order and shuttered businesses deemed “non-life-sustaining” early in the pandemic. However, Wolf and his health secretary have consistently said they have no intention of implementing another broad-based shutdown.
Intent or not, I think every resident in Pennsylvania is aware of the potential for another shutdown in the coming weeks. Wolf already announced new travel restrictions that take effect today that require visitors to the state to provide evidence of a negative COVID test that’s less than 72 hours old. Anyone who can’t show a test result is supposed to quarantine for 14 days, though the governor hasn’t said how the new restrictions would be enforced.
We also know that Wolf is hostile to the Second Amendment rights of residents, even before he vetoed the legislation that would have ensured the right to acquire arms during an emergency could not be infringed. Earlier this year, the governor called for the passage of several new gun laws in his State of the State address, though the Republican-controlled legislature did not oblige Wolf’s demands.
In his address, Wolf urged the legislature to pass stronger gun control laws, including comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, red flag laws (which allow for the removal of guns from a person who poses a risk to themselves or others), making it a requirement for owners to report a lost or stolen gun, and to ban ghost guns (partially built guns sold without a serial number). He also urged new gun-storage requirements to prevent accidental shootings, school shootings, and suicides.
While Wolf is pinning the blame for violent crime on legal gun owners, police in Philadelphia were told earlier this year to simply stop making arrests for a number of crimes, court systems have been mostly shuttered thanks to Wolf’s emergency orders, and clearance rates for homicides and non-fatal shootings have dropped below 50%.
With Wolf’s expected veto of the emergency powers legislation, he’s once again sending a sign (intentional or not) that he views legal gun owners as a bigger problem than violent criminals in cities like Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh. What’s more, he’s made it clear that our Second Amendment rights take a back seat to his embrace of power and authority, even when the state is failing in its mission to protect the safety of its citizens.