We’ve already seen nearly a half-dozen states adopt permitless laws this year that allow legal gun owners to also lawfully carry their firearm without the need for a government issued permission slip, and Republicans in the Keystone State would love to join the ranks of the 21 Constitutional Carry states around the country. On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled state Senate approved a permitless carry bill on a 29-21 vote, along with another measure strengthening the state’s firearm preemption law, and the House is expected to soon follow suit.
While the pro-2A legislation will soon have the backing of both chambers of the state legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat whose term expires next year, has already vowed to veto the legislation.
“This is a move to lower the bar for unvetted, permitless people to carry hidden weapons while they walk our streets and mingle in our communities and to dismantle the commonwealth’s system for responsible gun ownership. We need to stop this nonsense – we should question why we would want anyone who hasn’t undergone a background check to carry a concealed weapon. We should question politicians who turn a blind eye to the fact that states without concealed carry permits have an 11 percent higher rate of homicide than those with discretion.”
I have no idea how accurate Wolf’s statistics are, but we should also question politicians who believe that requiring a government-issued permission slip in order to bear arms is really all that effective at stopping violent criminals. Just look at Philadelphia, where there were 499 homicides last year. The city is on pace to surpass 500 homicides for the first time in history, but it’s certainly not legal gun owners who are driving the crime spike.
None of that matters to Wolf, who’ll scuttle these bills when they get to his desk. I’m glad to see Republicans making an issue of this as we head into the 2022 elections, and I hope that they re-introduce both bills in the next legislative session as well. In fact, if they really want to put Democrats in a tough spot, there’s another piece of legislation that they could introduce alongside permitless carry that would do the trick.
Indiana’s Republicans debated permitless carry earlier this year, but ended up settling on a bill that removes all state-mandated fees to apply for a carry license instead. While it’s not a true Constitutional Carry law, it definitely appears that getting rid of those fees has made it possible for many more residents to obtain a carry license.
“As expected, we’ve had an influx of applications on our website. We’re asking folks that want to apply for that to be patient,” said ISP public information officer, Sgt. John Perrine.
Perrine confirmed that ISP received 7,136 applications through the site in the first 24 hours after the permits became fee exempt.
… At Atkinson Firearms in Greenwood, store manager Luke Surface said they have also noticed the increase in people purchasing a firearm, particularly during the pandemic. He said, although the number of people purchasing a gun each week from them has slowed down a bit, they have still seen high numbers, particularly ahead of the July 1 change.
“A lot of people have already purchased their handgun in lieu of the fee being free,” said Surface.
“What they’ve done is they’re worried that they might not be able to get a gun with the times being how they are, so they went ahead and purchased a handgun, which it’s legal to own a handgun in the state of Indiana without the license.”
While I’d prefer to see Pennsylvania (and Indiana too, for that matter) adopt true permitless carry, it’s not going to happen as long as the state has a Democratic governor. But since Wolf’s objection to permitless carry is centered around scrapping the license itself, the Republican legislature could put him and other Democrats on the spot by also running a bill next session that doesn’t change anything about the licensing process except remove the $20 application fee. Republicans can still run on Constitutional Carry, but they’d also force Democrats into a corner during an election year; vote in favor of expanding access to the right to bear arms (and ticking off their donor base in the process) or demonstrate that the party is unalterably and utterly opposed to the lawful exercise of our Second Amendment rights (turning off the rural voters that Democrats need to woo if they’re going to be competitive at the ballot box).
It might not be Constitutional Carry, but it would still be an improvement over the current system as well as a political tool to force Democrats to defend their hostility towards a civil right at a time when millions of Americans (including tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians) are exercising their 2A rights for the first time in their lives. If you want to demonstrate the clear contrast between the parties when it comes to personal safety, trying to scrap the government fees required to lawfully bear arms would be a good way to do it.