As shooting deaths and injuries continue to mount throughout Pennsylvania, the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition watched in horror as our state Senate and House passed an extremely dangerous gun bill in November — Permitless Carry (SB565).
This legislation allows anyone to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without a permit and reduces the age to carry a concealed firearm from 21 to 18. Despite strong opposition from law enforcement, many gun owners, and the public, the bill sailed through the House in two days. Procedural motions were used to block numerous attempts to add safeguards, such as training requirements, background checks, and red flag procedures.
The current permit process is vital because it evaluates whether the holder will be a threat to public safety by looking at the person’s history of domestic violence, substance abuse, or other indicators that may not show up in a background check.
States that have instituted permitless carry have paid a high price. Arizona experienced a 44% increase in aggravated assaults committed with a firearm in the six years after enacting permitless carry in 2010. After Missouri lowered its minimum age to 19 for concealed carry, firearm suicide increased 7.2% among people aged 19 to 24.
A 2017 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that permitless carry laws are associated with 13%-15% higher aggregate violent crime rates 10 years after adoption, with rates increasing each additional year the law was in place.
In Philadelphia, where a record of 500 homicides were recorded by Nov. 24 of this year, Mayor Jim Kenny said state law stymies the city’s ability to enforce stricter gun laws. By allowing permitless open carry of firearms, SB565 removes a basic safeguard that makes it harder to reduce violent crime, endangering both civilians and law enforcement.
This legislation is unnecessary. Over 311,000 concealed carry permits were issued in Pennsylvania in 2020 — a 25% increase from 2019, according to the 2020 Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Firearms Annual Report. Those on the front lines of public safety know SB565 is dangerous. And BCWAC knows the danger this bill represents for victims of domestic violence.
We thank the brave lawmakers who stood with law enforcement and opposed permitless concealed carry. We also thank lawmakers who fought during the legislative process to have a discussion on commonsense firearm reforms like Universal Background Checks, Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO), and Required Lost and Stolen Firearms Reporting but were silenced by their party leadership.
We ask all lawmakers who voted against SB565 to do so again when the legislature attempts to override the governor’s veto. Nearly 1,600 Pennsylvanians a year die from gun violence; yet, the state House and Senate have not held a single hearing on evidence-based solutions since 2018. Several bills are languishing in committees that deserve public hearings and a vote: Reporting lost and stolen guns, demanding a background check for every gun purchase, and instituting an ERPO law to allow temporary confiscation of guns from a person in a mental health crisis.
Our lawmakers must stop bowing to the special interests of the gun lobby and put the safety of Pennsylvania citizens first. We all need to demand that our elected officials focus on the many gun safety proposals that are stuck in legislative committees. It’s time to end the carnage, not intensify this horror show.
Peggy Walsh is an individual partner of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition, a non-partisan coalition of individuals and non-profit organizations that serve women and families. She closely follows the status of gun legislation proposed in Harrisburg and Washington. More information about efforts to prevent harm from guns is available on BCWAC’s website, https://bcwac.org/women-work/safety/.
This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Op-Ed: Permitless Carry is a horror that endangers everyone