A state Senate Republican has now become the second Pennsylvania lawmaker to call for
legislation safeguarding the commonwealth against any potential gun control laws enacted at the federal level.
State Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., this week announced his plans to introduce legislation that would guard Keystone State residents against federal intrusion where future firearms regulations are concerned.
“Many, including myself, believe that Pennsylvania’s constitutional protections of the right to bear arms are much clearer and stronger than those contained in the federal document,” Eichelberger said in a statement released by the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans. “I also believe it is a clear principle of law that a state constitution may not offer less protection than the U.S. Constitution, but it can afford greater protections.”
The lawmaker noted that Pennsylvania’s provisions regarding the right to possess and bear arms – Article I, Section 21, in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – predate the U.S. Constitution.
Pennsylvania was actually the first state to address the right to bear arms in its constitution, according to Eichelberger.
“By the time the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted, Pennsylvania had already reaffirmed the right to bear arms as a fundamental individual freedom,” reads a news release from the Pennsylvania Senate Republicans. “The year before the ratification of the federal Bill of Rights, Pennsylvania’s protections were made even stronger, by adding the clear and unequivocal phrase, ‘shall not be questioned.’"
The full text of Pennsylvania’s constitutional provision reads as follows: “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”
Eichelberger said his legislation would make clear that Pennsylvania would not assist the federal government in “watering down individual rights protected by its constitution.”
The proposal would prohibit the use of any state or local resources, including personnel, buildings, and equipment, to enforce any new federal restriction on the purchase or ownership of any firearms and gun accessories that are currently legal products in the commonwealth.
Eichelberger’s announcement comes on the heels of a similar announcement by state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, one of the most vocal gun rights proponents in the commonwealth, who stated in January that he planned to introduce House Bill 357, (a reference to the .357 magnum handgun), that would nullify any potential future federal gun control laws.
On Jan. 23, Metcalfe, a Republican representing portions of southwestern Pennsylvania, announced that his proposal would prohibit enforcement of any new federal gun registration, restriction or prohibition requirement for privately owned firearms, magazines and ammunition within the commonwealth.
Metcalfe’s bill, which he said was modeled after similar proposed legislation in Texas and Wyoming, and which is titled the “Right to Bear Arms Protection Act,” would also require the commonwealth, including the Attorney General, to intercede on behalf of state citizens against any federal attempt to register, restrict or ban the purchase or ownership of guns and accessories that are currently legal in Pennsylvania.
“Passage of my legislation will send the message that there will never be additional gun control, anywhere in Pennsylvania,” Metcalfe said in a statement at the time.
Gun control is undoubtedly a hot-button issue these days, with calls for new gun regulations arising out of recent mass shootings, including the deadly elementary school massacre in Connecticut.
According to the Second Amendment Foundation, 44 states in the union have their own constitutional provisions enumerating individual citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.
Six states are lacking such a provision, according to the SAF. They are California, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York.
In the Empire State, however, Article 2, Section 4, of the New York Civil Rights Law reads almost identical to the federal Second Amendment. Still, this is not part of the state’s original founding document, but rather contained within a statutory law.