HARRISBURG – The Senate voted today to reinforce Pennsylvanians’ Constitutional right to bear arms while continuing to safely protect our communities by preventing municipalities from bypassing state law prohibiting them from regulating firearms and ensuring those legally allowed to own a gun can carry it openly or concealed, without needing a permit, according to Sen. Cris Dush (R-25) who supported the effort.
“Firearms ownership is a Constitutional right that should not be subject to infringement or questioning,” as is provided for in the constitutions of both the United States and Pennsylvania, as well as Commonwealth statute, said Sen. Dush.
Senate Bill 448, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35), allows for an individual or member organization to sue a county or municipality that implements a local firearms ordinance in violation of existing state law; allows for individuals adversely affected by local action to seek relief and damages; puts the burden on the municipality to defend its actions instead of placing the burden on the individual; and makes it clear the General Assembly is the only elected body that is responsible for passing legislation related to the right to bear arms.
The legislation seeks to maintain uniformity in gun laws across the state and level the playing field for gun owners by allowing recovery of legal fees and damages if the municipality is found in violation of the state’s preemption law.
Senate Bill 565, sponsored by Sen. Dush, merely decriminalizes the carrying of guns without a license. Use of firearms, whether criminal or for self-defense, is still controlled by other Pennsylvania statutes that remain unchanged.
“It’s important to note, this bill does not get rid of background checks or change any of the statutes surrounding the lawful purchase of firearms,” said Sen. Dush. “The bill only changes the statute surrounding the carrying of firearms by law abiding citizens.”
As of early September, there are 21 states that allow permit-less carry of firearms: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota (only available for state residents regarding concealed carry), Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
“No criminal has ever said, ‘I want to go commit assault and murder – but I have to wait for my license to carry to come in,’” Sen. Dush said. “But every day, honest Pennsylvanians who want to carry a gun simply to come home safe at night are forced to wait for their permit so they can carry legally.”
FBI data clearly show that in jurisdictions where law abiding people have the right to both keep and bear arms, those communities are safer.
To illustrate that, in October, a bystander carrying a legal, concealed handgun stopped a shooting situation in Lancaster’s Park City Mall.
“Absent him being there it could have been a very different situation,” said Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams of the bystander and his actions that prevented many more people working or shopping in the mall that day from being hurt or killed.
Both bills now head to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
CONTACT: Zack Ankeny