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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 12, 2016 03:25 PM
From: Senator John H. Eichelberger, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Pennsylvania Right to Bear Arms vis-a-vis federal actions
Pennsylvania’s protections regarding the right to bear arms pre-date and influenced the federal constitution. In fact, Pennsylvania was the first state to address the right to bear arms in its constitution. By the time the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted in December of 1791, Pennsylvania had already reaffirmed twice the right to bear arms as a fundamental individual freedom. For that reason, I plan to re-introduce legislation to preserve that right in the face of face the periodic federal attempts to infringe upon it.

The first Pennsylvania Constitution containing the protection was drafted in the summer of 1776 and adopted in September 1776. Among its principle authors was Benjamin Franklin. In 1790, when Pennsylvania’s constitution was amended to address various governmental reforms, the protections as to the right to defend oneself were made even stronger, by adding “shall not be questioned.” That language has carried through since that time:
Article I, § 21. Right to bear arms.
The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of
themselves and the State shall not be questioned.

It is a well known canon of judicial construction that a state constitution may not offer less protection of individual rights than the U.S. Constitution does, but it can afford more protection. Many, including myself, believe that Pennsylvania’s constitutional protections are much clearer and stronger than those contained in the federal document.

As such, I will be re-introducing legislation that will continue to assert Pennsylvania’s right to provide stronger protections of the right to bear arms to its citizens. My legislation would prohibit the use of any state or local resources, including personnel, buildings, and equipment, to enforce any new federal restriction, prohibition or registration requirement on the purchase or ownership of firearms and firearms accessories which are currently legal products in Pennsylvania.

Co-sponsors of the legislation (SB 357) in the 2015-2016 session were: SCAVELLO, VULAKOVICH, WARD, WHITE, AUMENT, HUTCHINSON, VOGEL, SCARNATI, STEFANO, FOLMER AND BROOKS.

Introduced as SB498