As promised, Gov. Tom Wolf has vetoed Senate Bill 565, the bill that do away with the longtime state requirement of a special permit to carry a gun concealed on one’s person or in a car.
Proponents have argued that the concealed carry permits are an unnecessary regulation on gun owners, because, in their view, it’s just as much a fundamental right to bear arms as it is to own them.
All Pennsylvanians need to get the permit is to have a clean background check, two character references and $20 for the application fee. But some gun rights advocates say even those steps are unnecessary hoops for law-abiding citizens, who in most cases already have to pass a background check when they purchase a gun.
The background check regimen at purchase would remain in place under this proposal.
Wolf, in his veto message, disagreed, calling the checks that go with the concealed carry permits an important public safety control in an age of spiking gun violence.
His veto message to the Legislature states, in part:
“This legislation removes the requirement that an individual obtain a license, and with it, the ability of law enforcement to conduct a background investigation. Removal of the licensing background investigation will hinder the ability of law enforcement to prevent individuals who should not be able to carry a firearm concealed from doing so. Domestic abusers and other dangerous criminals should not have the ability to carry hidden weapons in our communities.
“In states without concealed carry licenses, there is an 11 percent higher rate of homicide than those states who require a license. The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association both oppose this legislation and there are no law enforcement organizations in Pennsylvania that support this bill. I stand with them, domestic abuse survivors and advocates, responsible gun owners, and victims of gun violence who have expressed their opposition to this dangerous bill.
“This veto is not a move to restrict rights of lawful gun owners, as they can still conceal carry when they apply for a permit and successfully pass a background check. So far in 2021, nearly 360,000 license-to-carry background checks were completed and nearly 11,000 were denied. This is a veto against harmful legislation that puts public safety at risk across the commonwealth.”
Wolf also reiterated his call for the Legislature to act on bills that he argues will address gun violence, including: safe storage legislation, extreme risk protection orders, enhanced reporting requirements for lost or stolen guns, and closing gaps in the background check system.
Permits to carry a concealed weapon have been on the books in some way, shape or form in Pennsylvania since the 1930s, and the current requirement has been in place since 1988.
The “constitutional carry” push is a counter-offensive by gun rights supporters that gained momentum here, said Kim Stolfer, president of the state chapter of Firearms Owners Against Crimes, because of the growing number of cities and towns that have tried to adopt new local gun ordinances when gun regulation is supposed to be handled strictly by the state.
Stolfer said his group had also fielded growing complaints from gun owners this year about discrepancies in administration of the concealed carry permit application process around the state.
“It’s a reaction to government failing to follow the law,” Stolfer said.
Support for the so-called “Constitutional carry” bill is well short of the two-thirds majorities needed for a veto override, so that should effectively end this debate for this legislative term in Pennsylvania. But it also likely ensures that control and gun owners rights will continue to be an important issue in the 2022 gubernatorial and legislative races.
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