Permitless Concealed Carry in Pennsylvania

12/15/2021

Permitless Concealed Carry in Pennsylvania

BY: Scaringi Law Attorney Victor Schleich

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf vetoed Senate Bill 565. This bill, if passed, would have made Pennsylvania the 22nd state in the nation to enact permitless carry of a concealed firearm, or what is commonly referred to as “constitutional carry” of firearms. In states where such legislation has been enacted, those who lawfully own a handgun can engage in concealed carry without the need for applying for and being granted a concealed carry permit.

Dating back to the revolutionary era, founders such as Alexander Hamilton advocated for broad rights to self-defense with firearms, including personal carry. St. George Tucker, an influential attorney of the revolution era once stated that the right to bear arms was, “Without any qualifications as to their conditions or degree.”[1] However, up until the last few years, the legislatures in nearly every state, backed by their courts, have placed restrictions on the ability to carry a concealed firearm. The one state that has never had such a restriction is Vermont, where you can lawfully carry a concealed firearm without any state-issued permit.

Currently in Pennsylvania, those seeking to carry a concealed firearm are required to apply for a License To Carry (LTC) permit pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6109. This permit costs twenty dollars. In addition to this cost, there is a background check similar to the one an individual is subjected to when they initially purchase their firearm. This process can take forty-five days from the time you apply for your permit. Carrying a concealed firearm without following this permitting process is a third-degree felony under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6106(a).

The primary sponsor of Bill 565 in the Senate was Senator Cris Dush who represents Senate District 25. According to Senator Dush, permitless, or constitutional carry, is a fundamental right of all Pennsylvanians under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as Article 1 Section 21 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution. Senator Dush made a compelling argument in support of this position by pointing to the fact that under current state law, Pennsylvanians can open carry in a vast majority of the state. The only exception to this is the city of Philadelphia. As a city of the first class, in order to open carry you must either be licensed to carry or have an exemption under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6106(b).[2] Of course, private businesses and property owners can have their own rules and regulations when it comes to firearms on their property as well.

In attempting to justify his veto of this proposed legislation, Governor Wolf stated that allowing permitless concealed carry would “exacerbate gun violence and jeopardize the safety of all Pennsylvanians.” This safety concern is the main argument of those pushing for gun owners to be forced to have a state-approved permit to carry a concealed firearm. However, this safety concern is misguided. Before a gun owner gets to the point of applying for a concealed carry permit, he or she has likely already been subjected to a thorough background check conducted at the time of purchasing their firearm, either through a sale at an FFL dealer or via a private sale completed at an FFL dealer. While a private transfer of a long gun, such as a rifle, is not required to proceed through an FFL dealer, all transfers of handguns are, except for those between certain family members, such as parent to child, spouse to spouse, and grandparent to grandchild.[3] This encompasses the vast majority of firearms gun owners with a concealed carry permit typically purchase.[4] While this would create a small loophole as it relates to some firearms, the current statute mandates all be subjected to a PIC review, which is redundant for many.

The claim that allowing permitless concealed carry of firearms will lead to an increase in gun violence is not supported by current research into the issue. While studying the impact of permitless concealed carry on crime rates, specifically homicide rates, adjunct Professor Clayton E. Cramer at the College of Western Idaho found no significant change in murder rates in states before and after the introduction of constitutional carry.[5] Professor Cramer analyzed murder rates in Arizona, Alaska, and Wyoming five prior to as well as following each state passing their own constitutional carry legislation.

In a larger study, Professor Alexander McCourt, an Assistant Scientist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, came to the same conclusion as Cramer. In analyzing the 21 current permitless concealed carry states, McCourt found a statistically significant lower level of assault and robbery offenses committed with firearms after states passed constitutional carry.[6] The study showed no statistically significant change in murder rates across these states following the legalization of permitless concealed carry. While there isn’t a considerable amount of research on this issue, the early data suggests that Governor Wolf’s fears of increased crime as a result of permitless concealed carry are unfounded.

With the race for governor heating up in Pennsylvania, this is surely not the last we’ve seen of this topic in the legislature and potentially the courts.

If you have any questions about your rights to purchase, own, or carry firearms within the state of Pennsylvania, please reach out to the attorneys at Scaringi Law.

[1] 1 St. George Tucker, BLACKSTONE’S COMMENTARIES 143 n.40 (1803)
[2] 18 Pa.C.S. § 6108
[3] 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6111(c)
[4] Best Concealed Carry Handguns in 2021 - 80 Percent Arms
[5] Cramer, Clayton E. "Does Permitless Carry Raise Murder Rates?." Available at SSRN 3031269 (2017).
[6] Alexander McCourt, J. D. "Changes to the legal landscape for civilian gun carrying and impacts on violent crime."

Victor Schleich, ESQ. is a Scaringi Law Attorney who focuses his practice in Criminal Defense, Family, Firearms, Constitutional Law & Civil Litigation. Reach out to Attorney Schleich at 717-657-7700.

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