Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf isn’t the only governor to decide gun stores aren’t essential businesses. While Illinois was surprisingly insightful on this, others aren’t. New Jersey currently faces lawsuits over its decision. Wolf is far from alone.
However, it seems that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case.
In a major blow to constitutional rights of Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to exercise its King’s Bench jurisdiction to review the executive fiat issued by Governor Wolf regarding COVID-19. As such, the enforcement of the Governor Wolf’s Order will begin tomorrow (Monday) at 8 AM.
A copy of the PA Supreme Court’s Order declining to exercise its King’s Bench jurisdiction is available here. As the Court declined to exercise its discretionary review, it did not rule on any of the legal arguments contained within the challenge, including that Governor Wolf’s Order is ultra vires. Accordingly, any individuals cited for violating the Order will still be able to challenge the validity of the Order on statutory and constitutional grounds in a court of law.
What was interesting, however, was what three Democratic justices wrote in their dissent.
I write separately because the present Application for Emergency Relief brings to the Court’s attention a deprivation of a constitutional right. The Governor’s Order of March 20, 2020, the “Order of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Regarding the Closure of All Businesses That Are Not Life Sustaining” (the “Order”), makes no allowance for any continued operation of licensed firearm dealers. In light of the regulatory framework attending the sale and transfer of firearms, the inability of licensed firearm dealers to conduct any physical operations amounts to a complete prohibition upon the retail sale of firearms—an activity in which the citizens of this Commonwealth recently have been engaging on a large scale, and one guaranteed by both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of this Commonwealth.
This is a profound and sensible argument. While many may understand the necessities of many of the emergency procedures currently being enacted throughout the nation, the truth is that the curtailment of civil liberties will only generally be tolerated to a certain point. You can tell people not to do things, even block church, if they can see the reason for it. Banning gatherings might well make sense to many of them.
But the odds of transmission in a gun store is less than that of a grocery store. Those are still open, though, and for understandable reasons.
The truth is, these orders tend to come from anti-gun governors and mayors rather than people like the CDC. Why is that? Could it be that it has nothing at all to do with the virus? That’s my guess.
As for the state supreme court’s decision, that’s disappointing. It should be noted that while three Democrats dissented, a couple of Republicans voted to not hear the lawsuit. It’s a stark reminder that just because someone has an “R” after their name, it doesn’t make them pro-gun.
Of course, Pennsylvanians have another reminder in the form of HB 2344, a bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Thomas Murt that would require a permit in order to buy ammunition. Luckily, my understanding is that HB 2344 is dead on arrival, but it’s still telling that it’s introduced so close to the time when Republican justices refuse to stand for the Second Amendment.
Hopefully, Pennsylvanian voters will adjust their attitudes come election time.