Op-Ed: Preserving the Second Amendment in Pennsylvania

Dating back to our first days as a colony, Pennsylvania has a long history of responsible gun ownership. The right to bear arms is sacred to many communities throughout our Commonwealth.

The General Assembly has passed two measures I’m co-sponsoring to protect that right from repeated attempts to weaken it.

Our own Pennsylvania Constitution is direct and clear:

“The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”

Senate Bill 448 would prevent municipalities and counties from imposing firearm ordinances more restrictive than laws passed by the General Assembly. Senate Bill 565 puts law-abiding citizens who are otherwise legally able to possess and carry a firearm on equal footing and codifies the inherent right to carry a firearm into statute.

This is not an academic exercise. Our communities are increasingly unsafe.

Violent crime has recently spiked in our Commonwealth. The number of murders surged by nearly 30% from 16,669 in 2019 to 21,570 in 2020, the largest year-over-year increase on record.

Renegade district attorneys like Larry Krasner in Philadelphia have compounded the problem with lenient sentencing and early release of violent criminals. Patterns of violent crime often do not stay confined to large cities. The problem spreads to suburbs as well.

The soft on crime culture permeates from the top with Attorney General Shapiro. As the top law enforcement official in the state, his resources and influence could go a long way to admonish misguided DAs and support additional resources for police. While Shapiro rides around the state in his campaign bus, hundreds more around our commonwealth are victimized by violent crime each month.

Instead of confronting the actual factors leading to the uptick in violent crime, PA Democrats have doubled down on an easy target: guns. They point to bills like SB 448 and SB 565 as legislation that will only exacerbate gun violence.

This of course ignores the reality that bills such as these only benefit law abiding gun owners who make their communities safer by acting as a deterrence to potential shooter situations.

For those who live in high-crime-rate communities, the long wait for a concealed carry permit could be a matter of life and death. SB 565 eliminates that wait time.

Furthermore, research shows that concealed carry makes our communities safer.

The Crime Prevention Research Center did a deep dive study of over 21 million conceal carry permits around the nation and found that compared to the rest of the country, the 25 states with the highest concealed carry rates experienced lower rates of murder and violent crime. Imagine that concept: When more law-abiding citizens can defend themselves, violent criminals are not so brazen.

It’s past time for Pennsylvania to safeguard the rights of citizens to protect themselves and recognize constitutional carry.

While the General Assembly took action to strengthen the right of citizens to protect themselves at the state level, those who have sought to restrict this basic right now have a powerful ally in our nation’s highest office.

We currently have a President who in a speech at the White House earlier this year stated: “No amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”

These are perilous times for Americans who long assumed their elected leaders would obey their oath to “preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States.”

It remains to be seen what the federal government is planning to encroach on our Second Amendment rights here in Pennsylvania. But we can act now to preempt that.

I have introduced the Right to Bear Arms Protection Act (Senate Bill 624) to be proactive against forthcoming federal action.

SB 624 will do the following:

  • Provide for civil penalties for any state or local government official who conspires with federal agents in the enforcement of new federal gun restriction laws;
  • Remove any qualified immunity for public officials engaging in such cooperation;
  • Mandate the Attorney General to prosecute such collaborators and defend Pennsylvanians in court from prosecution;
  • Create a private right of action against officials who attempt to enforce these laws;
  • Freeze state grant funds from local governments that cooperate in such enforcement; and
  • Forbid local governments from accepting federal money to enforce gun restriction measures.

I call on Governor Wolf to sign Senate Bill 448 and Senate Bill 565, and I urge my Senate colleagues to get behind SB 624 to protect Pennsylvanians from extreme action at the federal level to diminish the second amendment.

The lynch pin that protects our freedoms from tyranny is the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves. This right shall not be questioned.

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