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PA Legislators Advance Bill to Protect Gun Rights During Declared Emergencies Despite Gov. Wolf’s Objections

PA Legislators Advance Bill to Protect Gun Rights During Declared Emergencies Despite Gov. Wolf’s Objections

By Trey 5537 comments

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Authoritarians never let an emergency go to waste, and the gun control radicals on the left in Harrisburg certainly tried to infringe on gun rights when the COVID emergency declaration was passed.

Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf in March tried to force all gun stores in the state to close, even as he ordered abortions clinics to stay open since abortion mills were, in his own words and the greatest grim irony of phrases, “life sustaining businesses.”

Wolf declared that gun stores, and by extension the Second Amendment, were “non-life-sustaining” and forced them to close on March 23rd.  Following a dissenting opinion from Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice David Wecht and two other Justices, Wolf quietly removed gun shops from that list, allowing them to re-open on March 25th.  

Their opinion made it clear that Governor Wolf’s shuttering of gun shops amounted 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.” 

And anti-gun state Rep. Thomas Murt, (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia), the urbanite lawmaker who is not seeking re-election, introduced House Bill 2344 to the House Judiciary Committee. This would be yet another tax on law-abiding gun owners, who pay excise taxes on gun-related sales that fund conservation projects. 

Most recently, mainstream journalists have been clutching pearls about the fact that at some anti-lockdown protests, a few people showed up openly and safely carrying firearms.

They declare that many of those demonstrators may have been breaking a rarely enforced state law that bans openly carrying firearms during an official disaster declaration.

Thankfully, a new bill passed in the state house to get rid of that anachronistic law.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Matt Dowling, R-Fayette, would remove these provisions from law. The legislation passed the House on widely bipartisan 127-74 on June 24 and is now in the Senate.

The new law is on solid constitutional ground, but gun control radicals of course are crying foul.

There have been two states of emergencies in the past months. The first of course the questionable COVID lockdown, and the second in response to the violent Black Lives Matter riots in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Under Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act, during such an emergency, “no person shall carry a firearm upon the public streets or upon any public property” during a state of emergency. There are two exceptions, one for an individual is “actively engaged in a defense of that person’s life or property from peril or threat” or if they have a firearm license, such as a concealed carry permit.

“Unfortunately, in the last few months, we’ve seen how easy it is for one person to choose to declare a state of emergency,” Dowling said in a statement. He added that it’s critical gun rights “remain in place, even if the governor announces an emergency declaration.”

The bill also makes one other related change. Under the state’s emergency code, the governor can “suspend or limit the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages, firearms, explosives and combustibles” under their emergency declaration. Dowling’s bill would take away the ability to regulate firearm sales.

A similar proposal to Dowling’s has been around since at least 2018. Former state senator and GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner made political hay of the law when Wolf used the state emergency code to fight the opioid abuse epidemic.

At the time, the Wolf administration accused Wagner of election year grandstanding.

Two years later, Wolf, of course, continues to oppose the bill, but hasn’t the political capital for another showdown over a clear-cut issue like this.

Dowling’s bill goes to the Senate next. Gun rights advocates should make sure their state senators know they support this bill.

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