Well, that didn’t take long at all. It was only yesterday that we were discussing Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to close all of the gun shops in his state during the coronavirus lockdown, deeming them nonessential businesses, and the state supreme court’s ruling that he was able to do so. But it seems that some people just can’t take yes for an answer. Despite his legal victory at the state’s highest court, Wolf has now relented and will allow gun shops to remain in business, albeit on a limited basis. (Free Beacon)
Pennsylvania gun stores will remain open on a limited basis after Democratic governor Tom Wolf reversed course on his emergency coronavirus shut-down order on Tuesday.
The governor will allow gun dealers to reopen their stores, but his order still severely restricts what they are allowed to do. The updated order says gun stores may only operate “to complete only the portions of a sale/transfer that must be conducted in-person under the law,” likely referring to the completion of a background check, which must be done in person…
The order requires that stores must operate on an “individual appointment” basis and only “during limited hours.” Dealers must also “comply with social distancing, sanitization of applicable area between appointments, and other mitigation measures to protect its employees and the public,” according to the updated order.
The restrictions on how the stores are allowed to operate aren’t particularly draconian compared to any other operation during the crisis. You can check people’s IDs without touching them or the document easily enough. Paying by credit or debit card over your phone or through a scanner (that is sanitized afterward) shouldn’t be a problem. And the products can be placed on a counter with the employee backing away before the customer picks them up. None of this is unreasonable under the circumstances.
The real question is why Wolf backed down so quickly after having his decision validated by the state supreme court. He had a big political win in the bag and could have just walked away with it. True, there were already lawsuits being drawn up to challenge the policy and an appeal to the Supreme Court was being discussed, but at least for the time being he could have declared victory and gone home. So what happened?
As recently as seven weeks ago, Wolf was giving speeches calling on the Republican majorities in the state legislature to take up new gun control laws. He was pushing for some of the standard Democratic wishlist items including universal background checks and a red flag law. The state GOP has given such requests a rather cool reception, so when the opportunity arose to essentially shut down all gun sales via executive fiat, Wolf must have been sorely tempted.
It could be that Wolf saw what happened in Virginia and noticed similar calls for Second Amendment sanctuaries in his own state. If he decided to go to the mat and wound up losing as Ralph Northam did, it would have been a serious political embarrassment.
Wolf didn’t offer much in terms of his reasoning, preferring to simply explain how things would operate from here on out. As far as gun rights supporters in Pennsylvania go, perhaps it’s best to simply take half a loaf and chalk it up as a victory. Now the battle shifts to New Jersey, where Governor Phil Murphy didn’t just close all of the gun stores. He shut down the state’s background check system entirely, meaning that a lawful citizen couldn’t complete the purchase of a firearm even if they found someone willing to sell to them. That move is already being challenged by multiple groups in court, with initial rulings expected later this month.