HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Pennsylvania lawmaker says the disaster emergency Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf declared this week to bolster the fight against heroin and opioid addiction may have unintended consequences for gun owners.
The governor’s office says the declaration does no such thing.
Rep. Sheryl Delozier (R-Cumberland) says declaring an emergency activates an automatic trigger in state law that criminalizes the open carrying of firearms in public or on public property. She said the intent of the law is to protect communities from looting and criminal behavior in the time of a natural disaster.
“While this may make sense in the context of a natural disaster, it could cause problems for law-abiding citizens now,” Delozier said in a statement Friday. “This is because the governor declared a public health emergency, which has never before been done in Pennsylvania.”
Delozier said she applauds the governor’s efforts to take action on the opioid crisis, but she’s disappointed with the route he chose.
She said she’s proposing legislation to address the issue. Her bill would allow open carrying of legal firearms during a state of emergency unless a disaster declaration expressly forbids it.
Wolf’s office said the declaration does not allow for law enforcement to confiscate firearms and the governor worked with law enforcement to ensure his actions have no impact on citizens and their firearm rights.
“Any implication otherwise to score cheap political points around the greatest public health crisis in our lifetimes is flat-out wrong,” Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said in a statement.
Emergency declarations are often used for natural disasters such as severe winter storms and floods.
“We are not aware of any adverse effects on citizens and their firearms in the past during such a weather event with a declaration,” Abbott said.