High court dismisses challenge to Wolf shutdown order

By: 
Associated Press
Staff Writer

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gun shop that challenged Gov. Tom Wolf’s authority to shutter businesses determined to be “non-life-sustaining,” paving the way for enforcement to begin Monday.
Without comment, a narrow majority of the state’s high court late Sunday denied the petition by a gun shop, a gun purchaser and a law firm to have Wolf’s shutdown order thrown out. The lawsuit had claimed Wolf’s edict violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms and other constitutional rights.
The court also said a legal challenge to Wolf's order to close law offices had become moot because of subsequent action that lets lawyers work from their physical locations to perform duties deemed essential by county or federal judges.
The Democratic governor has ordered all nonessential businesses to close their physical locations indefinitely, saying the measure is needed to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
In a dissenting statement joined by two other justices, Justice David Wecht said Wolf’s order 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” and the state constitution. He called on Wolf to make some allowance for the in-person sale of firearms.
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ENFORCEMENT BEGINS
Wolf's order to close down the physical locations of businesses deemed not essential to sustain life is being enforced as of Monday morning.
The Wolf administration has been sorting through nearly 10,000 waiver requests, saying their only consideration is health and safety.
State police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said Monday that troopers are aiming at voluntary compliance, "not coming in with a hammer at 8:01" a.m., when the enforcement period began.
“Our goal is not to write a giant pile of citations,” he said.
Tarkowski said people who want to report a business that remains open should use non-emergency numbers to call state police or local police. "Please don't call 911," Tarkowski said.
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WHAT'S OPEN, CLOSED
Businesses that remain open to the public include grocery stores, pharmacies, hotels and motels, beer distributors, laundromats and gas stations. Restaurants are only open for take-out orders. The open list also includes farms, mines, food production and some manufacturing.
Car dealers, clothing stores and other retailers, salons and entertainment venues are among those on the shuttered list.
On Monday, Pennsylvania officials extended the closure of facilities in state parks and forests until April 30. People with reservations for campgrounds, cabins and other overnight accommodations will get refunds.
The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said trails, lakes, forests, roads and parking areas remain open to the public, but urged people to practice social distancing and avoid crowded parking lots and trailheads.
The closure includes restrooms.
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CASES
Pennsylvania health officials on Monday reported 165 new cases of COVID-19 infection in Pennsylvania, for a total of more than 640 in 34 counties. Three deaths have been reported.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

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