proposed laws

PA Bill Number: HB2957

Title: In firearms and other dangerous articles, providing for sale or transfer of high-power firearm ammunition; and, in Commonwealth services, further ...

Description: In firearms and other dangerous articles, providing for sale or transfer of high-power firearm ammunition; and, in Commonwealth services, further ... ...

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Last Action Date: Oct 30, 2020

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Westmoreland County residents attend concealed carry seminar, obtain gun permits :: 02/03/2020

As presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg prepares to air an $11 million Super Bowl commercial touting gun control, more than 100 Westmoreland County residents who want to legally carry a gun in public came out Saturday to learn how.

About 120 people from across the county attended a “concealed carry” seminar Saturday morning in Hempfield. They were able to apply for or renew their gun permits while learning about Pennsylvania’s gun laws through a presentation by members of Firearm Owners Against Crime, a volunteer-based political action committee.

“I think something as serious as owning a firearm or carrying a firearm, I think it’s good to have as much information as you can about what the law is, and about just basic things that anyone would need to know who’s going to carry a firearm,” said Bob Overly, 60, of Hempfield who attended Saturday’s event.

In Westmoreland County last year, more than 11,600 concealed carry permits were issued, compared to just over 20,800 in Allegheny County. According to Westmoreland Sheriff James Albert, the county is one of the top in the state for issuing concealed carry permits.

Over 30 concealed carry seminars are scheduled throughout the year, Albert said. Almost 400 people attended one last week at Huber Hall in Latrobe offered by state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Washington Township.

Petrarca is sponsoring another from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the West Leechburg Fire Hall, 1116 Gosser St.

The event allows residents to ask law-enforcement, judicial and hunting officials about the state’s gun laws while discussing “open carry” laws versus “concealed carry.”

While Pennsylvania residents can “open carry,” meaning it is legal to carry a gun as long as it is visible, a permit is required for “concealed carry.” Under concealed carry laws, it is illegal to carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle or concealed firearm on their person without a permit.

Despite open carry laws, a firearm, rifle or shotgun cannot be taken onto a public street or public property in Philadelphia unless the person has a permit.

“I do have, of course, a permit and I do carry,” said state Sen. Kim Ward, who hosted Saturday’s event. “But I hear it all the time: It just seems to be one of the biggest issues out here with people who want to make sure their Second Amendment is protected.” She praised the efforts of Albert and his deputies in helping people get their permits.

“And I think this is important that people who want to be more educated on this are.”

A short line of people waited to renew their permits while presenter Kim Stolfer of Firearm Owners Against Crime discussed laws, gun safety tips — like keeping your finger off the trigger until it’s time to shoot — how to travel through states where a Pennsylvania concealed carry permit is not legal and what to do if you’re pulled over with a gun in your car.

“This (a gun) is a tool of last resort,” Stolfer told the crowd. “It’s not made to intimidate.”

He also discussed the concealed carry permit itself, which can take between five and 10 minutes to be issued and requires a background check, according to Albert. Individuals must be at least 21 years or old, and the permit costs $19.

John Klimchock, 56, of Carbon was renewing his permit, which is valid for five years.

“Education is important for everybody,” he said. “If you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t make good decisions.”

Still, the event had some political comments during the presentation regarding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and one person yelling out “Biden” when asked if the government ever committed crimes.

Political debates over stricter gun laws have been ongoing for decades, and especially following a series of mass shootings across the country.

In the weeks after a shooting where 22 people were killed and 26 others were wounded at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart and a shooting the following day that killed nine people and injured 27 in Dayton, Ohio, President Trump explored whether to extend background checks for those buying firearms, The New York Times reported.

He previously moved to impose a ban on bump stocks, which allow a semiautomatic rifle to fire in rapid bursts. That move came after 58 people were killed during a Las Vegas concert in 2017 and 17 students were killed at a Parkland, Fla. high school the next year.

The debate has been continued as several Democratic candidates vying for the presidential seat are pushing stricter laws.

Bloomberg’s Super Bowl ad features a mother who is grieving the loss of her 20-year-old son who died after being shot, The New York Times reported.

Trump is also airing an $11 million ad focused on low unemployment rates and the military, themes that have featured throughout his presidency.

“As a candidate, he can do whatever he wants, but people will vote their consciences,” Klimchock said of Bloomberg’s ad. “I don’t think it’s going to make much of a difference, one way or another. He likes to spend money on stuff that won’t mean a lot in the end.”

For Vickie Rafferty, of Youngwood, Saturday’s event served as a way to learn about a right she feels is being threatened by the ongoing debate on gun control. She added that if guns are taken away from “responsible individuals” they will be unable to protect themselves from those who have illegal firearms.

“It’s important for responsible gun owners to come out and stay updated about all this stuff that’s going on because our gun laws are changing, and it’s scary to think that this country was founded on the right to bear arms as one of our main points,” Rafferty said. “We had so many restrictions when we were not an independent country, and this was one of the things that allows you that opportunity to protect yourself and have a little bit of independence.”

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, or via Twitter .