Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D-Pa.) vetoed two gun bills that would repeal laws intended to control the carrying of guns and prevent public officials from shutting down firearms sales during emergency proclamations.
The bills, which recently passed the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania State Senate, intended to limit Wolf's powers during the COVID-19 pandemic and moving forward, AP News reported. Wolf, a Democrat who supports broader gun control measures, has previously vetoed more than six such bills.
“The current disaster declarations in place are meant to help the administration fight the public health crises at hand and have no impact on citizens and their firearm rights,” Wolf’s office said in a statement on Nov. 19.
The Senate confirmed both bills by identical 29-20 votes on Nov. 18, and both received approval from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives earlier this year. According to AP News, all but one Republican voted in favor of the bills, and all but one Democrat voted against them.
While the first bill would repeal a provision that states “no person shall carry a firearm upon the public streets or upon any public property,” those who have a concealed-carry license would be exempt. Lawmakers say the law has gone largely unenforced, AP News reported.
Rep. Matthew Dowling (R.-Fayette), the bill’s sponsor, however, believes the law could limit people from openly carrying a firearm which is not generally banned in the state, AP News reported.
The second bill would block both the governor and local public officials from suspending or limiting the sale of firearms during a disaster emergency, AP News reported. To help respond to a disaster, governors can invoke a disaster emergency to bypass state regulations.
This bill is designed to prevent a governor or local government from shutting down businesses related to firearms during a disaster emergency, including retailers, manufacturers, shooting ranges, clubs, and hunting preserves, AP News reported.
When Pennsylvania was placed under statewide stay-at-home orders in March with only essential businesses open, Wolf allowed gun dealers to reopen with strict protocols following pressure from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.
In the last year, the state has seen a push for stronger gun control laws. Philadelphia filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in early October, seeking stricter gun control after the city saw its number of shooting victims surge by as much as 47%.
Wolf similarly called upon state lawmakers to support increased gun control in a speech made early this year, Spotlight PA reported, when he urged strengthening reporting requirements for lost and stolen firearms and mandating universal background checks.