Op-Eds 5/13/24

OP-ED: Pennsylvania Gun Owners, Unite!

By: Klint Macro and Katie Pointer Baney

Once again, Pennsylvania will be one of the most important political battlegrounds in the nation in 2024. Nationally, for the presidency and the balance of power in the U.S. Senate. At the state level, for the balance of power in the House and Senate.

The millions of gun owners across Pennsylvania and the nation could help sway the result in all of these races, as this will mark the first election year in which a majority of American voters say they or a member of their household owns a gun.

Pennsylvania’s Gun History

Pennsylvania has a rich history of responsible gun ownership and self-defense culture.

The Commonwealth’s constitution reads, “the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned.” These relatively strong protections have equipped many law-abiding citizens with the personal security that comes with carrying a firearm.

The Commonwealth is a “shall-issue” state, meaning that all applicants 21 years and older who pass the basic state and county requirements cannot be denied a concealed carry permit. The laws have remained relatively static for decades, allowing scores of Pennsylvanians to partake in the self-defense awakening that’s occurring across the nation.

A study by the RAND Corporation found that more than 40% of Pennsylvania households own at least one firearm, which places the Commonwealth in the top half of U.S. states. As of 2023, more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians had permits to carry a concealed firearm.

At the city level, Philadelphia issued more than 52,000 new concealed carry permits in 2021. That represented a 600% jump from the previous year.

Allegheny County has experienced similar surges in recent years, with a single weekend last summer drawing 1,100 permit applications. County Sheriff Kevin Kraus attributed the high volume to a majority of applicants wanting an effective tool for self-defense.

The Political Battle

However, the House’s slim Democratic majority has advanced numerous bills designed to curb this trend and ultimately restrict Pennsylvanians’ right to self-defense. This effort includes a vaguely worded ban on commonly owned rifles and unnecessary firearm storage mandates.

If their majority expands and pro-gun-control politicians take control of the Senate, these measures would likely become law. The state would veer dramatically toward mirroring New York or California.

There is a similar divide at the federal level, with the two parties offering radically different visions for the future of Second Amendment protections. This serves as a reminder of how important it is for everyday gun owners to stay involved in the electoral process and vote for candidates who will champion their self-defense rights.

If the millions of gun owners in Pennsylvania all recognize these stakes and vote in 2024 for candidates they know will protect their right to keep and bear arms, they will have a substantial impact. After all, a mere 80,000-vote margin determined the presidential election results in 2020, and the races up and down the ballot this year could prove even more razor-thin.

Important Right

The Second Amendment and gun policy is a potent and often polarizing issue. While it may not be the top issue voters list when they enter the ballot box, the importance of the right to self-defense cannot be understated.

Pennsylvanians are fortunate to live in a state where they still enjoy that right, but it may only be one election cycle away from disappearing.

This op-ed was originally published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Klint Macro is the president of the Allegheny County Sportsmen’s League, VP of Firearms Owners Against Crime-ILLEA, and a United States Concealed Carry Association certified firearms instructor. Katie Pointer Baney is the executive director of the USCCA for Saving Lives Action Fund.