Well look at that: Human rights win again.
On March 19, when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued an order for all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to close to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, that list included gun shops.
The March 23 deadline would be enforced with fines, loss of business licenses and even jail time for those that refused, WCAU reported.
Turns out, some refused.
When the order first came down, a lawsuit was quickly filed by a gun shop that refuted the governor’s order.
Justice David Wecht, clearly sensing “tension” between the governor’s order and those pesky constitutional rights, wrote a nimble dissent that two other justices joined.
Wecht began by affirming the obvious — that the inability of gun dealers to conduct regular business meant the “complete prohibition” of the sale of firearms.
“This amounts to an absolute and indefinite prohibition upon the acquisition of firearms by the citizens of this Commonwealth,” Wecht pointed out, “a result in clear tension with the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.”
“In my view,” Wecht concluded, “it is incumbent upon the Governor to make some manner of allowance for our citizens to continue to exercise this constitutional right.”
In other words, find a way for gun shops to remain open, the good judge recommended.
And the governor in turn did just that — he just didn’t tell anybody.
Instead of announcing the change to the general public, Wolf’s office instead released an updated listing of all businesses that were subject to the original order. The re-release now included gun shops.
On March 24, the Industry Operation Guidance document now read, “Firearms dealers may operate physical businesses on a limited basis to complete only the portions of a sale/transfer that must be conducted in-person under the law.”
Gun dealers can now stay open, though like many other businesses, they must operate by individual appointment during limited hours.
Joshua Prince, who filed the original suit, told The Associated Press, “I am extremely pleased that Governor Wolf has acknowledged that he may not eviscerated citizens’ inviolate rights, regardless of any states of emergency that may exist.”
In the end, Wolf did the right thing — though it is a shame it took a lawsuit to do it.
As our nation lives through this precarious moment, we are quickly relearning the lessons of history and the importance of American values and rights that inevitably become most dear to us in times of scarcity and crisis.
And what is more, we are rediscovering how quickly those rights can be stripped from us when we may need them most.
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