Pa. legislators react to Wolf vetoing expanded concealed carry bill

‘During his two terms as governor, Tom Wolf has shown a penchant for ignoring the constitutional rights of Pennsylvania citizens,’ Sen. Cris Dush said Thursday

By: - December 2, 2021 3:29 pm

Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, speaks during a Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee meeting to vote on a subpoena for an investigation into the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections (Capital-Star photo).

Responding to a gubernatorial veto of legislation that would have allowed for concealed carry without a permit, Pennsylvania legislative Republicans say Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is making the state less safe.

As promised, Wolf vetoed a bill introduced by Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, that allows for concealed carry without a permit, lowers the legal age from 21 to 18, and grants open carry in Philadelphia. After hours of contentious debate last month, the Republican-controlled Senate and House approved the legislation, destined for the governor’s veto pen.

“During his two terms as governor, Tom Wolf has shown a penchant for ignoring the constitutional rights of Pennsylvania citizens,” Dush said in a statement hours after Wolf released his veto message. “Firearms ownership is a constitutional right that should not be subject to infringement or questioning.”

Opponents, including Wolf, legislative Democrats, a handful of law enforcement associations, and gun safety advocates, say the “irresponsible” legislation creates risk for Pennsylvania amid increased gun violence

Proponents, however, say that requiring a concealed carry permit is just an unnecessary regulation, arguing that many gun owners may have already undergone a background check. Twenty-one states allow for permitless concealed carry. Those who support the provision say it affirms the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

Under current state law, Pennsylvania gun owners 21 and older can only carry a concealed weapon if they successfully obtain a permit from their county sheriff. Dush’s bill would have allowed counties to issue concealed carry permits, but getting one would have been voluntary.

“No criminal has ever said, ‘I want to go commit assault and murder — but I have to wait for my license to carry to come in,’” Dush said. “But every day, honest Pennsylvanians who want to carry a gun simply to come home safe at night are forced to wait for their permit so they can carry legally.”

Dush described Wolf’s veto as telling Pennsylvanians: “In spite of the Bill of Rights, you don’t have the right.” He added that the governor “ensured the disparity in public safety will be enforced by his administration and will continue for Pennsylvanians.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Wolf’s decision was “disappointing.”

“Citizens deserve to have the peace of mind to know they can defend themselves against violent crime,” Corman, also a 2022 GOP candidate for governor, said in a statement. “Vetoing this bill does nothing to make Pennsylvania safer. Criminals do not care about permits. The only people harmed by Gov. Wolf’s veto are the citizens who follow the law.”

Citing Philadelphia’s 500 homicides so far this year, including the recent shooting of a Temple University student, Corman said Wolf should focus on “commonsense ways to reduce violence instead of punishing law-abiding citizens.”

While debating the legislation in the upper chamber in November, Senate Democrats proposed a series of amendments, all of which failed, to tighten firearm requirements and establish guidance for lost and stolen gun reporting, as well as mandatory training. Democrats also have introduced several bills that would enact their proposed amendments that are sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, praised the governor’s veto on Thursday, saying it “will keep our communities safer and prevent an unsafe and unlimited rise in concealed firearms in our communities.”

House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, said Dush’s bill was “a poorly timed, poorly conceived plan to expand access to firearms and would have risked the lives of more Pennsylvanians.”

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