By: José Niño
The Pennsylvania State Senate voted in favor of two pro-Second Amendment bills this week.
One bill is a Constitutional Carry measure that would allow people to carry a firearm openly or concealed without having to beg the government for permission first. The other bill would punish municipalities that enact firearm regulations that go beyond established state law.
The two bills will assuredly be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. Republican majorities in the Pennsylvania Senate (28-21) allowed for Constitutional Carry bill SB 565 to move with relative ease.
“This is about our Second Amendment and our right to bear arms,” said Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward during floor arguments in favor of the bill. “The Second Amendment doesn’t say anything about restrictions on our right to bear arms.”
According to Marc Levy of the Associated Press, the bills were passed with almost unanimous support among Republicans and even received support from at least one Democrat. Republicans struck down several Democrat amendments that included one that would have gotten rid of the background check exception for the private sale of semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and sporting rifles.
The bills are now heading to the House of Representatives. The House, which has a 113-88 Republican majority, has not made any significant moves on concealed carry bills.
SB 565 was passed, 29-21, with one Republican voting against it and one Democrat who voted for it. The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is one of the strongest opponents of the bill, in addition to other law enforcement organizations.
The other bill, SB 448, would resurrect legislation that Second Amendment organizations have long sought. Specifically, SB 448 would expand standing in court to file lawsuits against a municipality over unconstitutional firearms ordinances and collect damages from a municipality that loses the lawsuit. The bill was passed on a 31-19 vote, with all Senate Republicans and two Democrats voting for it.
While these two bills will be vetoed by Wolf, they do mark a good first step in putting the Second Amendment question at the top of political discourse as the 2022 election cycle draws closer. Republicans can leverage the issue to take back control of the governor's office and maintain, if not expand, their majorities in the House and Senate.
According to Guns & Ammo magazine’s rankings for the best states for gun owners and concealed carry, Pennsylvania is ranked in 31st and 25th place, respectively. In sum, the Keystone has work to do with regards to its gun policies. Passing SB 565 and SB 448 would go a long way in improving its pro-Second Amendment profile.