HARRISBURG – A move to relax a restriction ordering gun shops to remain closed as part of the statewide mitigation effort to slow the spread of coronavirus isn’t good enough, the leader of a gun-rights group said Wednesday.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s revised order allows people with appointments to go into a gun shop to complete a sale, but it doesn’t provide the public the opportunity to go into the shop to shop for firearms, said Kim Stolfer, founder of Firearms Owners Against Crime. It’s also not clear that the order will allow people to buy ammunition or related equipment, he said.

The state Constitution says the right to bear arms “shall not be questioned,” he said. 

Wolf’s original order closing non-essential businesses had included gun shops among the other retail outlets barred from opening.

That decision prompted gun rights attorneys Joshua Prince and Adam Kraut of the Firearms Policy Coalition, to sue, alleging the governor’s action was illegal. 

The Firearms Policy Coalition is a national group, based in Sacramento, California.

The state Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit, but a dissenting opinion filed by Supreme Court Justice David Wecht suggested that the Wolf administration should offer accommodation for gun shops.

Wecht said that the governor has offered restaurants the opportunity to remain open for takeout while barring dine-in service and a similar move for gun shops would allow “citizens to continue to exercise this constitutional right” to bear arms.

Late Tuesday, the state revised its guidance on essential businesses to indicate that gun shops are allowed to be open to complete sales and transfers for “limited hours” and by appointment only. In order to operate, gun dealers must “comply with social distancing” and sanitize sales areas between appointments and take steps to mitigate the potential for coronavirus exposure to employees and the public.

Prescription drugs

The trade group representing pharmacists in Pennsylvania is calling on the state to crack down on prescribing guidelines for drugs believed to help treat coronavirus, in part, over concerns that doctors are over-prescribing them to hoard the drugs for themselves.

Patricia Epple, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association, said “we started hearing about this last week,” after President Donald Trump began touting the potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in treating coronavirus,

Epple said she was told by a pharmacist that a doctor had tried to get 14 prescriptions of the drugs in order to have them for family.

Pharmacists have the discretion to refuse to fill prescriptions but Epple said it would be helpful if the state provided tighter guidelines limiting prescriptions of the drugs.

She pointed to the move by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy, which on Sunday barred doctors from prescribing chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus unless the patient has already tested positive for coronavirus.

Similar restrictions have been enacted in Idaho, Kentucky, Nevada, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia according to the New York Times and Propublica.

Liquor stores

While the state has made a number of changes to relax closings included in Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide coronavirus mitigation order, there are no current plans to reopen the state liquor store system, a Liquor Control Board spokeswoman said.

The state has already allowed the reopening of interstate rest stops, permitted gun shops to do sales by appointment and approved hundreds of day cares to reopen.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that has completely shuttered its state-run liquor stores in response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group.

Neighboring states, including New York and New Jersey, still have liquor stores open even though states have been hit harder by the coronavirus outbreak than Pennsylvania. New York has identified 30,811 coronavirus cases and New Jersey has identified 3,675. The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced Wednesday that there have been 1,127 coronavirus cases identified in this state.

John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and covers state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @CNHIPA.

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