As a nation, we’ve mostly come out of a national emergency and there’s some indication we may be heading back into COVID Emergency Part Deaux. It’s the last thing any of us want or need right now, of course, but one particular problem highlighted during the earlier lockdown is just how vulnerable our gun rights are in many places.
Under emergency orders, many gun stores were unable to sell firearms at all, despite the massive demand. Guns are often explicitly prohibited from sale during so-called “emergencies” for whatever reason, even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Then there are the laws that prohibit the carry of firearms in various ways, even open carry when that’s ordinarily not an issue.
In Pennsylvania, though, steps are underway to try and stop that kind of thing from being an issue.
Legislation that would limit the governor’s ability to restrict access to guns during a disaster emergency declaration is moving through the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
The bill passed out of the House with a bipartsian 127-74 vote Wednesday despite opposition from CeaseFirePA and the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, two groups that advocate for increased gun restrictions.
Under current law, people are banned from openly carrying a gun during a disaster emergency declaration, unless they have a concealed carry license, are exempt from having such a license, or are actively defending their life or property.
The bill from state Rep. Matthew Dowling (R-Fayette) would eliminate that ban.
The bill also would change the state’s disaster emergency law, striking out firearms from a list of items or activities that the governor can restrict.
In other words, it simply makes it so people can do the same thing during an emergency they can do any other time.
Not such a big deal, right?
Well, for some, it was a huge deal.
Leaders of CeaseFirePA and the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action said loosening restrictions would make people less safe.
“It will put our communities at a greater risk of preventable gun violence during a pandemic,” said Erin Buchner, state legislative lead for the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action.
Adam Garber, executive director of CeaseFirePA, said he wasn’t aware of law enforcement officers using the disaster emergency powers to seize guns from people choosing to openly carry firearms, but he said it’s important for law enforcement to have the option.
In other words, your rights don’t actually matter to these people. Not exactly a shocker, to be sure.
However, I will say that unless someone is or has been guilty of some kind of crime, there’s never a reason to deprive them of their Second Amendment rights. Then again, people like Garber don’t actually believe we have any rights under the Second Amendment.
Firearm Owners Against Crime sent out a press release earlier today:
PA House Passes HB 1747 Removing Draconian Powers of the Governor and Mayors to Suspend Civil Rights/2nd Amendment
FOAC wishes to thank Representative Matt Dowling and all the members of the House of Representatives who supported HB 1747! Passage of this legislation removes a very onerous section of PA law, in Title 18’s Uniform Firearms Act, that currently disarms EVERY PA Citizen who does not have a License To Carry Concealed Firearms (LTCF) during declared Emergencies. The portions of Sections 6107 and 7301 that HB 1747 seeks to remove are unconstitutional, as they prohibit law-abiding individuals from being able to exercise their constitutional rights and defend their lives. The curtailment of constitutional rights is never authorized, especially in a time of emergency, when the exercise of those rights is of paramount importance.
Recently, PA Supreme Court Justice Wecht, joined by Justices Donohue and Dougherty, recently wrote, “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.” The opinion goes on to explain that the restriction on the ability to purchase a firearm at a Federal Firearms Licensee “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.”
Restricting a citizen’s right to self-defense as well as the lawful exercise of their 2nd Amendment/Article 1, Section 21 rights, under the US and PA Constitutions, cannot and should not be condoned and HB 1747 addresses these issues definitively! The Governor’s issuance of his opioid proclamation(s), as well as, a state of emergency regarding COVID-19; pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S § 6107, prohibits an individual from
carrying/possessing ANY firearm on “public streets or upon any public property” during the state of emergency, unless one has an LTCF.
Further, the public has been misled as to the consequences of a violation of 18 Pa.C.S § 6107 because pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. § 6119, it is a misdemeanor of the first degree – our highest grade misdemeanor. As a result, if an individual would be convicted of a violation of Section 6107, it triggers the federal prohibition of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); whereby, that individual will be prohibited for the remainder of his/her life from possessing (current firearms) and purchasing any firearms and ammunition.
It is important to remember, this IS CURRENT LAW right now and HB 1747 will ‘repeal’ the problematic sections of law thus shrinking the power of government to violate civil rights and our Constitutions, both state and federal.
Gun control organizations such as Everytown, Mom’s demand action, and cease-fire PA are on record supporting continuing the framework of denying civil rights and the right to self-defense to millions of Pennsylvania citizens and placing them in legal jeopardy. The misleading rhetoric coming from these gun control organizations reveals that they have no respect whatsoever for the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.
Pennsylvania is the 11th most restrictive state in the nation for the exercise of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. We have a vast array of laws that currently exist covering every aspect of firearms ownership, acquisition, and possession. While we question the veracity of many of those laws this is one law that the public in this debate can do without.
Realistically, I don’t see this bill becoming law, unfortunately. Governor Tom Wolf has come out in opposition to the bill–shocking, I know–and it doesn’t look like there are quite enough votes to override that veto. Still, I’d love to be wrong because bills like this are definitely needed. As FOAC notes, this is nothing more than repealing some troubling sections of law that only hurt law-abiding citizens during a particularly tense time but does nothing during the rest of people’s lives.
If that’s not sufficient reason to repeal a law, what is?