PA Republicans gut gun control bill and replace it with Constitutional Carry language

The odds of a Democratic-sponsored gun control legislation getting enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania were never good to begin with, but lawmakers took the extra step on Tuesday of stripping a bill of language that would have raised the age to purchase a modern sporting rifle from 18 to 21 and replacing it with Constitutional Carry language instead.

The GOP-led House Judiciary Committee made the swap over the objections of Democratic sponsor Rep. Peter Schweyer, who said he still wants to see the bill brought forward for a vote on the House floor.

“I don’t want to give them an opportunity to hide behind a committee vote. I want them to have to justify why they did this in public,” he said.

Judiciary Committee Chairperson Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, declined to speak with reporters after the vote.

Democratic members of the committee vocally opposed the amendment, calling it an abdication of the Legislature’s responsibility.

“Instead of going in one direction to provide appropriate regulation of the collective right to buy arms, we are going to buy into the myth of the individual inviolate right to bear arms,” said Rep. Joseph Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia.

“If we don’t regulate this right to bear arms and we say instead there is an unfettered individual right we will effectively have gone 150 years back into the wild west,” Hohenstein said.

Sorry Joe, but you lost me at “collective right”. What Hohenstein wants, of course, is to tell young adults that not only can they not purchase the most common firearm for self-defense (a handgun), they’re no longer allowed to purchase the most commonly-sold rifle in the country as well.

If we want to have a national conversation about raising the age of adulthood to 21, fine (though I think that would only exacerbate the problem of extended adolescence). But when Democrats are calling for both lowering the voting age to 16 and raising the age to exercise your Second Amendment rights to 21, I honestly find it hard to take either argument seriously, especially when the anti-gun side makes it clear they don’t want to stop with barring those under the age of 21 from purchasing a semi-automatic rifle.

“We’re talking about guns that kill lots of people all at once and we don’t need those in our society writ large and we certainly don’t need them in the hands of teenagers who lack impulse control,” he said. “We are failing to do our jobs and we are actually doing harm if we don’t pass this.”

A serious question for Hohenstein and other gun control advocates; if young adults are so lacking in impulse control, why isn’t he demanding a complete ban on under-21s possessing any firearm? How about everyone younger than 25? And why stop with firearms? Why haven’t we (or rather, they) called for raising the age to operate a smart phone or to post on social media to 21 as well? Imagine the damage that could be done to sex traffickers and their networks if we kept kids and young adults off of platforms like Facebook.

Of course there would be First Amendment concerns, but why should those bother Hohenstein any more than Second Amendment considerations factor into his calls for more gun control? If it protects just one child, isn’t it worth curtailing the rights of every young adult in the state of Pennsylvania?

As for the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who substituted gun control language with the text of a stalled Constitutional Carry bill instead, while I appreciate the sentiment, the bill itself isn’t about to become law. Constitutional Carry has already been approved by the state legislature, and it’s been vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf. They can pass the bill again (and very well might if Schweyer succeeds in bringing the bill to the floor), but as long as the governor has a “D” after his name, the Keystone State is going to keep a license to carry requirement in place.

Now that both parties have reminded us of their respective positions on the right to keep and bear arms, maybe the two sides can start to talk about ways to address violent crime that don’t involve criminalizing a constitutional right. I’ve been a huge proponent of programs like Project Ceasefire, and I’m pleased that Republicans and Democrats in my state of Virginia were finally able to agree on millions of dollars in the latest budget to fund grants for a proven program that can change lives for the better and can reduce homicide rates by more than 50% when successfully implemented. There’s no reason why Pennsylvania lawmakers couldn’t find the same accord, except for Democrats insisting that the only way to improve public safety is by restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.