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Thomas Gallatin / Mar. 25, 2020

States Use Pandemic to Suspend Second Amendment

Several states are denying the right to self-defense as an "essential" right.

State governors across the country have issued orders mandating the closure of all businesses not deemed essential or “life-sustaining” in response to the growing China Virus pandemic. Unfortunately, several states have included firearms retailers in their list of “nonessential” stores, effectively limiting their residents’ access to their Second Amendment rights.

In Pennsylvania, the commonwealth’s Supreme Court recently upheld Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf’s shuttering of all gun stores. In his dissenting opinion, Justice David Wecht blasted the governor’s order, writing, “In my view, it is incumbent upon the Governor to make some manner of allowance for our citizens to continue to exercise this constitutional right.” Wecht continued, “Such an accommodation may be effectuated while preserving sensible restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, but nonetheless provide a legal avenue for the purchase and sale of firearms, thus avoiding an impermissible intrusion upon a fundamental constitutional right.” In short, there is no legitimate excuse to suspend Americans’ civil rights due to a crisis.

Fortunately, Wolf partially reversed course late Tuesday. The Washington Free Beacon reports, “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 an “individual appointment,” as well, “during limited hours.”

Wolf is not the only governor to dismiss Americans’ gun rights as “non-essential.” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, also a Democrat (surprise!), included gun stores in his list of nonessential businesses that must shutter indefinitely due to the pandemic. Murphy faces a lawsuit brought by resident Robert Kashinsky, New Jersey’s Second Amendment Society, the Second Amendment Foundation, and Legends Firearms.

Andrew Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, argued, “Gov. Murphy cannot simply suspend the Second Amendment and neither can Supt. Callahan. Yet, under this emergency order, that’s exactly what they’re doing. The Constitution and federal law don’t allow that.”

Fortunately, not all state governors have chosen to ignore the Constitution. Illinois Democrat Gov. J.B. Prizker last week issued a “shelter in place” order yet recognized firearms retailers as an essential business that can remain open “for purposes of safety and security.” Would that all governors respected Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

There is a silver lining in all this, which is that firearms retailers are reporting a near 300% increase in sales since the pandemic, while noting that 90% of recent purchases have been first-time gun owners. It takes a crisis for some folks to recognize the wisdom of our right to bear arms. Self-defense is not a luxury; it is a responsibility.

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