HARRISBURG – The Senate voted 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. Judy Ward (R-30) who supported the effort.
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.
“Law-abiding citizens should not have to conduct a full-blown investigation of every municipality they pass through during a trip across the state if they wish to lean on their Constitutional right to carry a firearm,” Sen. Ward said. “It’s an unreasonable expectation that essentially nullifies people’s rights, and that’s unacceptable.”
Senate Bill 565, sponsored by Sen. Cris Dush (R-25), 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.
“Pennsylvanians must already pass a background check to purchase a firearm, so the extra step of another check to obtain and renew a concealed carry permit simply adds extra cost and aggravation for people who have already demonstrated that they’re fit to own a gun. It’s time to eliminate this arbitrary and unnecessary barrier,” Sen. Ward said.
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.
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.