Concealed carry permits may become optional

Legislation is working through the state House of Representatives that would make concealed carry permits optional.

It’s HB 659 and it’s through the committee stage where it was approved on partisan lines with one Republican joining all the Democrats on the committee opposing the measure. State Representative Kathy Rapp is listed as a co-sponsor of the measure put forth by Rep. Aaron Bernstine (Lawrence/Beaver/Butler).

The text states that “…every person present in this Commonwealth shall have an affirmative, fundamental and constitutional right to keep and bear firearms, including the right to carry openly or concealed, carry loaded or unloaded, train with, transport, possess, use, acquire, purchase, transfer, inherit, buy, sell, give or otherwise dispose of or receive any firearm without a license from this Commonwealth or this Commonwealth’s political subdivisions.”

It calls for “obtaining a license to carry a firearm” to be optional.

One reason people may want the license, per the legislation, is for “the ability to carry a firearm in any state with which the Commonwealth maintains a reciprocal agreement for the mutual recognition of licenses to carry firearms.”

The concealed carry permit process in Warren County is handled by the Sheriff’s Office.

Warren County Sheriff Brian Zeybel said he views the permit process as “keeping honest people honest.”

“The criminal who carries a gun in his waistband and is planning on using that gun for criminal activity doesn’t care that it is an ‘extra crime or charge’ if and when he is caught with it,” Zeybel said. “It is simply a way of life required for someone involved in committing serious crime(s).”

As a result, Zeybel said the people seeking permits now are “the law abiding (who) want to conform to the standards set forth” and “who wish to protect himself or his family in a last-ditch effort to save their lives.”

He said these aren’t the people law enforcement worry about during a traffic stop “however, it is still nice to be notified that they have a firearm … for both their safety and ours during routine encounters.”

Zeybel said he doesn’t see risks in making the concealed carry permit optional.

“The current process is similar to the threshold set forth to purchase a firearm in the Commonwealth,” he said, explaining that he expects more people to carry concealed with the optional process.

“These people would have been approved, but just never took the time nor the money to apply for their permit,” he said. “So now they would carry without the formality of the application process. These are the people who do not carry their legal firearm currently as they are responsible and justly afraid of the possible criminal charges that would apply without the proper issued permit.”

While the future of the bill with a Democratic governor is anything but clear, Zeybel said it’s a good idea.

“It allows the legal, responsible gun owner an easier and simpler opportunity to protect himself and his family without being ‘allowed’ to do so by the current (concealed carry permit) process,” he said. “Most people who want to carry responsibly and feel strongly about their right to do so, have most likely already applied and were granted a CCP. This just saves them a step, and seemingly gives them a little bit of an inherent right ‘back.'”

He cautioned though that criminals carrying a concealed weapon while committing crime “just skated on an additional charge and possible jail time related to same if this law is… changed.”

“Maybe the sentencing guidelines and current laws affecting the illegal use and/or possession of firearms should be enforced without discretion in a small attempt to act as a deterrent like the above law did. Using a gun in a crime is much different than responsibly carrying a firearm.”


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