Judiciary committee deletes age restrictions for assault weapon ownership

(*This developing story will be updated.)

House Republicans on Tuesday gutted a bill that would ban anyone younger than 21 years old from purchasing or possessing assault weapons, and replaced it with language from an open-carry bill Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed last December.

The House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to amend Rep. Peter Schweyer’s, D-Lehigh, bill that would have prevented anyone under 21 from obtaining the types of weapons used in school shootings in Uvalde, Texas; Newtown, Conn.; and elsewhere.

The amendment deleted the bill’s language and replaced it with language from House Bill 659, sponsored by Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Lawrence, which has been tabled since April, and is identical to the bill Wolf vetoed. 

The language would eliminate the requirement for gun owners to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon to possess a gun outside of their home or business. Under current state law, Pennsylvania gun owners 21 and older can only carry a concealed weapon if they successfully obtain a permit from their county sheriff. It would also end Philadelphia’s ban on openly carrying guns.

Schweyer told the Capital-Star that he planned to call up the bill as amended in the House on Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t want to give them an opportunity to hide behind a committee vote. I want them to have to justify why they did this in public,” he said.

Judiciary Committee Chairperson Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, declined to speak with reporters after the vote.

Democratic members of the committee vocally opposed the amendment, calling it an abdication of the Legislature’s responsibility.

“Instead of going in one direction to provide appropriate regulation of the collective right to buy arms, we are going to buy into the myth of the individual inviolate right to bear arms,” said Rep. Joseph Hohenstein, D-Philadelphia. 

“If we don’t regulate this right to bear arms and we say instead there is an unfettered individual right we will effectively have gone 150 years back into the wild west,” Hohenstein said.

The legislation would prevent young adults from obtaining weapons like those used by the 18-year-old gunman who killed 19 students and two teachers last month at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Hohenstein said. He cited broadly accepted research showing people in their late teens and 20s are more likely to act impulsively than older adults.

“We’re talking about guns that kill lots of people all at once and we don’t need those in our society writ large and we certainly don’t need them in the hands of teenagers who lack impulse control,” he said. “We are failing to do our jobs and we are actually doing harm if we don’t pass this.”


Originally published at www.penncapital-star.com,by Peter Hall

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