Pennsylvania lawmakers approve concealed carry without permit, but governor expected to veto
Pennsylvania Republicans have approved “constitutional carry” legislation that would allow residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit, despite a promised veto from Gov. Tom Wolf.
The House approved Senate Bill 565 on Tuesday, 107-92, with eight Republicans against and three Democrats in favor. The Senate approved the bill, sponsored by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Wellsboro, last week by a vote of 29-21, and it now moves to the governor’s desk.
“The inconsistencies and duplicate abuses that occur within our existing permitting system violate the rights of law-abiding Pennsylvanians, and we must put a stop to this,” said Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Beaver, who sponsored similar legislation in the House. “We can no longer stand by while those Pennsylvanians are forced to jump through hoops to exercise their God-given constitutional rights.”
With the exception of a required permit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians can openly carry a loaded firearm, while carrying a concealed firearm requires a license to carry. Twenty-one states allow permitless carry.
“Pennsylvanians who follow the law each day should not be punished or hindered simply because they choose to carry a firearm concealed,” Bernstine said.
Lawmakers argued for hours over the legislation Tuesday night, with Republicans asserting the current permit system violates a fundamental constitutional right to bear arms by subjecting approval to county sheriffs. Democrats predicted the bill would result in a surge in crime and death.
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, read the names of numerous people killed in Philadelphia this year on the House floor to dramatize the point.
“How could we in good conscience pass a bill where there are irrefutable statistics showing in other states would exacerbate the crisis of gun violence that we have seen in the commonwealth?” Kenyatta said.
“The statistics are not just numbers,” Kenyatta said. “These are actual people.”
Republicans argued the bill empowers law abiding residents to protect themselves while helping police keep communities safe.
“The House Republican Caucus has made it a priority this session to guarantee constitutional and individual rights while providing resources for Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable and giving additional tools to law enforcement to keep communities safe,” House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, said.
“The legislation to assert Pennsylvanians’ constitutional right to carry firearms without a permit protects the Second Amendment and Article 1, sec. 21 state constitutional rights of legal gun owners,” Benninghoff said. “The bill changes nothing regarding who can legally own a gun and takes nothing away from law enforcement from going after those owning and using guns illegally.”
The legislation moves to Wolf, who vowed last week to veto the “dangerous” bill he said would dissolve the current “system for responsible gun ownership.”
“We should question politicians who turn a blind eye to the fact that states without concealed carry permits have an 11% higher rate of homicide than those with discretion,” he said.
Dush, the bill’s sponsor, and others have argued the opposite, citing FBI statistics linking gun ownership to community safety.
“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,’” 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.”