To: House Judiciary Committee
From: Adam Garber, CeaseFire Pennsylvania Executive Director
RE: Vote No on House Bill 659 Permitless Concealed Carry
May 19, 2021
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee will consider legislation (House Bill 659, Bernstine) that would allow any Pennsylvanian to carry a concealed firearm in public without a permit, removing existing safeguards that allow law enforcement to ensure concealed firearm carriers act in a manner that does not endanger public safety. CeaseFire Pennsylvania, the state’s leading gun violence prevention advocacy organization, urges you to vote no on House Bill 659 (Bernstine), which would limit law enforcement’s ability to de-escalate dangerous and potentially deadly situations during an emergency.
Experiences in other states make it clear that repealing this safeguard will make Pennsylvanians less safe. Under existing law, law enforcement can run more extensive background checks and evaluate the character and reputation of concealed carry applicants. This can include looking at whether they are involved in potential criminal activity, whether or not they have a disqualifying felony on the record, or if they have other concerning indicators such as domestic violence or substance abuse. Arizona experienced a 44% increase in aggravated assaults committed with a firearm in the six years after enacting permitless carry in 2010.
The legislation would also lower the age for concealed carry from 21 to 18, posing additional risk for suicide and violence. After Missouri lowered the minimum age to 19 for concealed carry, firearm suicide increased 7.2% among people aged 19 to 24.
Additionally, the current concealed carry permit process does not in any way inhibit the rights of Pennsylvanians whom law enforcement deem able to responsibly carry a concealed weapon. In 2019, Sheriff’s departments and the City of Philadelphia issued 248,000 concealed carry permits. It is likely that this number increased in 2020 based on reports by the media. Franklin County, for instance, saw a 42% increase in permit requests and expects permits to continue to rise. Other areas are making it easier to apply for permits by implementing an online application system.
In creating a fictional problem that requiring concealed carry permits undermines Second Amendment rights, the proposed legislation will undermine public safety and make it harder for law enforcement to reduce crime. We urge you to vote no.
Finally, I encourage you to heed the warnings of law enforcement in Texas, which is currently considering similar legislation. Texas Municipal Police Association Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said this about his state’s initiative to do away with firearm permitting: “we’re concerned that this bill passing will make the jobs for our law enforcement officers more difficult and more dangerous. This bill is just bad public policy… when we need to be lessening the frequency in which we engage armed citizens, we’re going to – in fact – do the exact opposite.”
If you have any questions about this or other gun violence prevention policies, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (267) 515-1220.
CeaseFire Pennsylvania Executive Director