Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Pennsylvania Governor Reverses Course, Exempts Some Firearms Transactions from General Lockdown

By Eugene Volokh - March 24, 2020 at 08:13PM

The new policy, updated this afternoon, continues to include sporting goods stores, alongside very many other establishments, on a long list of closed businesses, but adds:

Except that 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,subject to the following restrictions: 1) all such sale/transfers will be conducted by individual appointment during limited hours only so as to minimize social interactions and congregating of persons; 2) the dealer will comply with social distancing, sanitization of applicable area between appointments, and other mitigation measures to protect its employees and the public.

For more on the controversy, and on the view of 3 Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices (all Democrats, incidentally), see Josh Blackman's post from two days ago; here's an excerpt from that opinion:

The effect of this regulatory scheme is that, notwithstanding any payment, the actual transfer of a firearm from a dealer to a purchaser must be completed at the dealer's place of business. Quite simply, if firearm dealers are not able to conduct any business in-person at their licensed premises, then no transfers of firearms can be completed. This 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 ["The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned."]. See generally District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008); see also Bateman v. Perdue, 881 F.Supp.2d 709 (E.D.N.C. 2012) (applying Heller to hold unconstitutional a statute authorizing government officials to prohibit the sale of firearms during state of emergency); id. at 714 (noting that statute "effectively prohibit[s] law abiding citizens from purchasing and transporting to their homes firearms and ammunition needed for self-defense" thus "burden[ing] conduct protected by the Second Amendment").

I hope to blog tomorrow about the similar controversies that have arisen with regard to restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas and Ohio.


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