Hutchinson’s Amendment to Protect PA Firearms Owners During Emergencies Moves Forward

| June 19, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – After trying for over a decade to change laws concerning the rights of firearm owners in Pennsylvania to be protected during certain emergency situations, Pennsylvania Senator Scott Hutchinson has seen some progress.

Last week, Hutchinson’s efforts to ensure that responsible gun owners are protected against having their firearms confiscated during future emergency situations moved closer to enactment with the amending of Senate Bill 1019 by the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee.

“It came out of committee last Wednesday, June 13,” Hutchinson said. “There isn’t a date yet for floor action, but I would assume it would be in the near future.”

According to Hutchinson, his “small” amendment os part of a larger bill to update the health and safety code in the commonwealth.

“It clarifies that when there is an emergency declared, the power of the governor to suspend the sale and transportation (of firearms) isn’t there. (The governor) shouldn’t have that power. That is an old thing that has been on the books a long time, and I want to strip it out so that in an emergency gun ownership rights and the ability to take away (firearms) isn’t taken away willy nilly. It (firearm ownership) is a fundamental right and the governor having that power threatens a fundamental right.”

Hutchinson said he wasn’t sure how long the governor has had the power to suspended and potentially take away firearms in an emergency but that is has been a long time covering administrations of both Republican and Democratic governors and has remained in place during periods of both Republican and Democratic majorities in the commonwealth legislature.

He said even if the current amendment and bill gets passed, there are still broader powers given to Pennsylvania governors in Title 18.

“Title 18 has broader powers,” Hutchinson said. “This doesn’t amend Title 18. This is the only change I can offer right now.”

Hutchinson said he has been working on this subject since his days in the Commonwealth House of Representative – he was elected to the Senate in 2012.

He said he first became aware of the issue after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

“The most egregious example goes to Hurricane Katrina where there was the actual confiscation of firearms,” Hutchinson said. “I started working on this shortly after that. Most people don’t know it’s on the books. If you think about the situation, semi-lawlessness, people should have the right to defend themselves, their possessions and their families. It is a perfect example of when people need to protect themselves when there is an emergency.”

While Hutchinson used the example of Hurricane Katrina for the impetus behind his amendment, he said he is not aware of a Pennsylvania governor ever using his or her power to effect firearms ownership.

Recently, there was some concern about the issue when Governor Tom Wolf issued a disaster declaration regarding the Commonwealth’s efforts to battle the opioid crisis and some feared that could infringe upon firearms ownership in the Commonwealth.

But Hutchinson said the Governor hasn’t affected firearms purchases in any way with the declaration.

“I see this as an opportunity to update the language,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson did say not everyone was in favor of the change, including potentially the governor, and the amendment had some pushback in committee.

That didn’t surprise him considering he has tried putting bills in previous terms concerning changing the law but hasn’t gotten support even though the Republican party has controlled the legislature and at times the governor’s mansion, at various times since Hurricane Katrina.

“I’ve never been able to get it going as a standalone bill,” Hutchinson said. “I have been surprised by how hard it has been to get it moving, and I don’t know why that is.”

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