By: José Niño
It’s not just red states where Constitutional Carry is making progress.
Pennsylvania is witnessing its Constitutional Carry bill, Senate Bill 565, make surprising progress in the State Senate. In late June, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Senator Lisa Baker, voted to advance Senate Bill 565 and put it before the Senate floor for a potential vote.
Constitutional Carry enables lawful citizens to carry a firearm without having to beg bureaucrats for permission to do so. It’s a significant step toward restoring the Second Amendment. Contrary to what some naysayers say, Constitutional Carry does not fully scrap the licensing system. It maintains it for individuals who want to carry in other states that recognize Pennsylvania’s concealed carry license, a system known as reciprocity.
SB 565 was introduced by State Senator Cris Dush on April 16, and now Republicans in the General Assembly are trying to push this legislation to make Pennsylvania become the 22nd Constitutional Carry state.
Passing Constitutional Carry would go a long way in improving Pennsylvania’s standing as far as gun laws are concerned. As of now, Pennsylvania is ranked in 31st place according to Guns & Ammomagazine’s Best States for Gun Owners rankings. Similarly, Pennsylvania is in 25th place for Guns & Ammo’s Concealed Carry rankings.
The present partisan breakdown of the Pennsylvania General Assembly is in the Republicans’ favor, with 28 out of the 50 members of the Senate being Republicans, while 113 of the 203 members of the House are Republicans. The Governor’s mansion will be the biggest obstacle, as Democrat Governor Tom Wolf is a fervent proponent of gun control and will adamantly oppose any expansions in gun rights.
Should SB 565 be passed, it will undoubtedly be vetoed. At the moment, Republicans will have trouble mustering up enough members to override a potential veto. Per Pennsylvania’s constitution, two-thirds votes of all members of the General Assembly are needed to override a veto, which Republicans fall well short of having due to them not possessing strong majorities in the General Assembly, coupled with Democrats’ unwillingness to cross over on Constitutional Carry.
With these obstacles in mind, pushing for Constitutional Carry still has value in the Keystone State. A potential veto on Wolf’s part can be used as campaign material during the 2022 gubernatorial elections when Wolff’s successor and a Republican square off.
Cities like Philadelphia are already being afflicted by a significant crime wave: reports from The Philadelphia Inquirerindicate that the city’s total homicide count (499) grew by 40 percent in 2020. This opens up opportunities for Constitutional Carry to be tied to law-and-order messaging. This is a time when many citizens have lost confidence in large metro areas’ abilities to provide public order. The next best alternative is to promote pro-civilian empowerment policies like Constitutional Carry.
Sure, Constitutional Carry will likely fail in Pennsylvania this year, but this could be the beginning of a broader campaign to strengthen gun laws in the state. With Pennsylvania becoming more electorally competitive at the state and federal levels in recent years, it is not an inconceivable notion to see the state adopt Constitutional Carry in the upcoming decade.
It all boils down to whether Pennsylvania Second Amendment activists will recognize this trend and pounce on it to change the state’s political environment.
José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at joseinpoliti[email protected]. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.