Harrisburg, PA — Despite opposition from a wide range of law enforcement officials and gun violence prevention advocates, the Pennsylvania House has sped through legislation to allow anyone over 18 to carry a concealed firearm without any additional safety checks. The abnormal speed at which this controversial legislation is moving — with an emergency Judiciary Committee vote coming about 12 hours after Senate passage — leaves many shocked at the sense of urgency for legislation that would undermine public safety and worsen the gun violence epidemic. The legislation, Senate Bill 565, is expected to see a final vote in the House of Representatives this week.
“This urgency should be used for evidence-based solutions that have led to historic reductions in gun violence in states and cities across the country, not a policy that the same evidence indicates will further endanger the public with rising violent crime and casualties,” said Adam Garber, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA the state’s gun violence prevention advocacy group. “If this becomes law, this historic level of gun violence in cities from York to Philadelphia to Pittsburgh may not be the bloody high mark.”
States that have allowed residents to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without a permit experienced a 13-15 percent increase in violent crime in the years after passage. This increased threat to public safety, driven by potential shooters’ ability to enter public spaces without being noticed, led the Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association and Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association to oppose the legislation.
In addition, the legislation would overturn a nearly 50-year old statute that prohibits open carrying of firearms in the City of Philadelphia without the necessary permit.
“Our communities are enduring an epidemic of gun violence. More than 400 homicides in Philadelphia so far this year have left countless families mourning children, parents, brothers, sisters, and neighbors,” said Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton. “Some people think the solution to gun violence is more guns and to rush through legislation making it easier to access and carry firearms on our streets. However, this is not what the data shows, and it is not what our communities want. This is a poorly thought-out plan that will make Philadelphia and other communities less safe and puts the lives of more Pennsylvanians at risk.”
“Requiring a firearm owner to receive a permit to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in a grocery store or park, interferes with their rights no more than getting a permit for a public protest. And in the end it saves lives, the fundamental responsibility of our government,” added Rep. Dank Frankel.
While Governor Wolf pledged to veto the legislation at a press event nearly three weeks ago with CeaseFirePA and Senate Democratic leaders, the Republican leadership continues to disregard of warnings from law enforcement. During the Senate debate, numerous proposed amendments to provide for Extreme Risk Protection Orders or reduce illegal firearm trafficking through lost and stolen reporting, were dismissed in minutes without discussion or a vote. House Democrats are preparing to propose similar amendments to enact numerous solutions to the growing epidemic of firearm violence and suicides across the Commonwealth.
“As a hunter, I know that it is my responsibility to use my firearms responsibly and safely. Permitless carry encourages the opposite of responsible gun ownership,” said Carol Lastowka, a hunter and gun owner at a press event three weeks ago in the State Capitol. “I want to be able to take my kids to the mall, to the grocery store, to a ball game, without worrying that they’re going to be shot. SB 565 would turn us all into targets for the next hothead who decides they don’t need a permit to carry.”