Dec. 3-Pennsylvania's gun owners still need to obtain a license-to-carry permit to carry a concealed weapon in the state after Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a Republican-passed bill Thursday that would have allowed gun owners to carry that concealed gun without the permit.
Wolf said he vetoed the bill as a matter of public safety. He said that states without the permit requirement for a concealed weapon have an 11% higher homicide rate than states that require it.
"I'm all right with his veto," said Greg "Gooch" Ionadi, owner of Smoke N' Guns in Oakmont.
If Wolf had not vetoed the bill, Ionadi said "people who should not be carrying (a gun), will be carrying" a concealed weapon. And that would make it more difficult for law enforcement to determine who has a gun illegally.
"If you are a felon and everyone else is carrying (a concealed weapon), it is a little harder for law enforcement" to get the criminal, Ionadi said.
County sheriffs in the state have issued 1.49 million license-to-carry permits, according to the state police. Some of those may be out-of-state residents who have qualified for a permit in their state, which has a reciprocal agreement with Pennsylvania to honor the license.
Pennsylvanians undergo a background check when buying a weapon, but don't need a concealed weapon permit issued by a sheriff's department. Gun owners are generally allowed to openly carry a loaded firearm, although the law is silent on that.
Once someone puts the weapon under a jacket or shirt, they need the permit, Ionadi said. The concealed weapon permit, which requires the applicant to undergo a criminal background check, also is needed for someone placing the weapon in their vehicle's glove box.
The bill would have overridden a law pertaining only to Philadelphia, which requires gun owners to get a permit to openly carry a firearm in the city.
More than 500 people have been killed by gunfire in the City of Brotherly Love this year - the highest number since 1990.
CeaseFirePA, a gun control organization, praised Wolf. It said the General Assembly tried to make this and future holiday shopping seasons "more dangerous by allowing anyone to carry a concealed firearm, no permit needed."
Until the General Assembly passes one the many "evidence-based solutions" to gun violence, "more Pennsylvanians will die from this preventable public health crisis."
The governor's decision was supported by Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was severely wounded in a shooting in Arizona in 2011.
"Republican lawmakers continue to push reckless laws that would lead to more guns in more places," said Sean Holihan, state legislative director at Giffords.
Sen Cris Dush, R-Jefferson County, criticized Wolf for saying the "Constitutional carry" bill he sponsored would impact public safety. Criminals don't wait to get a permit to commit a crime with a gun, Dush said.
Regardless of the criticism, Wolf's veto is likely to stand because Republicans in the General Assembly don't have the two-thirds majority votes to override a veto, as long as Democrats stand with the governor.
The veto did not surprise Nathan Carey, owner of Bullseye Firearms Gun Vault in New Alexandria.
The issue of removing the concealed carry permit requirement "has been a long fight for a long time," Carey said.
Many gun owners believe that if they can legally own a firearm, "you can carry said firearm," said Joseph Mulligan, manager of Bullseye Firearms.
"The permit to get carry conceal is the same background check" for buying the weapon, Mulligan said.
Westmoreland County Sheriff James Albert said his department has seen an increase this year in residents seeking a permit to carry a concealed permit, although the statistic may be skewed because of the covid pandemic last year.
The sheriff's department has issued about 700 permits per month to allow a person to carry a concealed weapon, Albert said.
Albert, who said he has not read the details of the bill, said he believes the changes in society have prompted more people to seek a permit to carry a weapon.
"We're (Westmoreland) among the highest in the state," Albert said of the number of permits it has issued to residents who want to carry a concealed weapon.
With the violent protests that have occurred in the nation, "people are buying firearms who never thought they need it," Mulligan said. "Now, they need it."
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, email@example.com or via Twitter .