HARRISBURG, Pa. — After nearly three hours of debate in the state Senate, two firearms bills are moving forward after following near party-line voting.
Republicans backing the bills say they will bolster Pennsylvanians’ Second Amendment rights.
Opponents fear they will make the state more dangerous.
Senate Bill 565 would allow any gun owner to openly or concealed carry their weapon in public without a permit.
“When I was a kid, I watched a lot of westerns,” explained Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-42nd District. “You had a holster and a strap on the side of you. It looks like that’s where they want this to go.”
Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-39th District, said background checks will remain in place when guns are purchased.
“We’ve addressed every issue,” she said. “All it changes really is that you no longer have to pay whatever it is, 30 bucks, 40 bucks, to get a concealed carry permit.”
Senate Bill 448 would prevent municipalities from being able to enforce gun ordinances that are stricter than state law.
Republicans say the goal is consistency.
“Different municipalities have different laws,” said Sen. Pat Stefano, R-32nd District. “If you travel from one part of the state to another, you don’t even know what laws you might have violated.”
Opponents like Josh Fleitman, with CeaseFirePA, worry the bill will prevent local officials from taking action against gun violence.
“It opens up these municipalities to lawsuits, not just from local residents, but from outside groups like the NRA, a very well-funded group that can sue these municipalities in court; and in this legislation, as the kicker, if the local government loses the court case, they are on the hook to pay the legal fees, meaning the taxpayers are on the hook to pay the legal fees,” he said.
Both bills now move the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for consideration.
If they reach the governor’s desk, Governor Wolf has said he will veto them.
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