Delaware Valley state Sens. Anthony Williams (D-Philaldelphia/Delaware) and Cris Dush (R-Centre) faced off on Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) on Tuesday evening to debate gun rights in the Keystone State, including Dush’s proposal to allow citizens in the state to carry a concealed handgun without a permit.
At issue was Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution which states, “The right of the citizen to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be questioned.”
Dush is sponsoring a bill in the state Senate that would allow “every person” in Pennsylvania to carry a firearm without a license so long as they are not legally barred from owning the gun.
Dush argued that “the people who have a lawful ability to carry a firearm in the commonwealth, they shouldn’t have to have a permit. The people who are already lawfully able to carry a firearm, they can do so [under the bill].”
“Those who are not lawfully able, they’re not going to pay attention to any law on the book anyway,” he added.
Williams claimed America’s gun rights have made the nation a global laughingstock.
“The further allowance of armament by Americans is the bane of our existence and the embarrassment of America globally,” he said. “The global community laughs at us. We have more regulations to drink, to smoke a cigarette, and to drive a car in Pennsylvania than we do to buy a gun.”
The two senators debated for over an hour, including taking questions from callers.
Williams said the U.S. has “too many illegal guns, too many illegally purchased guns, and too many people who shouldn’t own a gun. We have to acknowledge that we have a problem.”
Dush said focusing on guns as the ultimate source of violence in the U.S. is misguided.
“As a society, the things that we need to start addressing, they need to actually address the problems,” he said. “Pieces of equipment, that’s not actually the problem.” He argued that breakdowns in family structure and mental health issues were driving violence in communities nationwide.
The politicians also traded arguments regarding the constitutional basis for gun ownership in the U.S.
Dush said the Second Amendment is “there to protect the citizenry from people who abuse their power,” a contention with which Williams sharply disagreed.
“We’re having to debate about people arming themselves against the government. That’s chilling,” Williams said.
Dush’s bill—Senate Bill 357—is part of a recent flurry of laws passed by GOP legislators nationwide to codify so-called “constitutional carry” into law.
Residents of most states have long been required to obtain a license in order to carry a concealed weapon. But pro-gun Republicans have recently moved to abolish those provisions and allow unregulated concealed carry.
The United States Concealed Carry Association says as of January 1 of this year, a majority of states—26 in total—allow permit-free concealed carry.
Gun critics have claimed the proliferation of such laws contributes to a surge in violence in the United States, though the RAND Corporation says that evidence that permissive gun laws increase violent crime and homicides are “inconclusive” and “limited.”