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Opioid Emergency Prompts 2nd Amendment Dispute Between Wagner, Wolf

Matt Rourke
Republican Scott Wagner says he isn't opposed to finding a solution to the opioid crisis, but doesn't want to declare it an emergency in Pennsylvania based on how he says it might affect gun rights.

One of Governor Tom Wolf's potential gubernatorial rivals is taking issue with a 90-day emergency declaration he issued in response to mounting opioid overdose deaths.

Republican Scott Wagner said his problem isn't about opioids, though. It has to do with gun rights.

Wagner, a York County state senator, said he does support addressing the opioid epidemic--but not by emergency declaration. He called the declaration sloppy, pointing to a state statute that prohibits carrying a firearm in public during an emergency without a concealed carry permit or hunting license.

And he questioned whether it's legitimately intended to help addiction victims, or if it's a "political ploy."

Wolf spokesman JJ Abbott called the criticism baseless, and said the governor worked with law enforcement on the order to make sure gun owners wouldn't be affected.

"Any implication otherwise to score cheap political points around the greatest public health crisis in our lifetimes is flat-out wrong," he said.

The statute in question doesn't allow weapons to be seized during an emergency, and there is little record of it ever being enforced.

But a spokesman for Wagner contended, "it is still limiting the rights of an individual to carry a firearm without a license."

Emergency declarations aren't rare. The state typically sees a few every year--usually for severe weather.

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.