Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2021 ‘State Right to Bear Arms in Pennsylvania.’ Other Laws & Policies. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 16 October
State Right to Bear Arms in Pennsylvania
Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution states: "The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned."
In Wright v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania rejected a challenge to a statute prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons, summarily holding that defendant had "no protection under the 21st section of the Bill of Rights, saving the right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the state." Similarly, in Lehman v. Pennsylvania State Police, the Court held that the denial of the appellant's application to purchase a rifle due to a conviction for larceny decades earlier was not a violation of article 1, § 21, stating "[w]hile the right to bear arms enjoys constitutional protection, like many other constitutional rights, it is not beyond regulation."
Pennsylvania's lower courts have also consistently rejected article I, § 21 challenges to gun laws, in the following cases:
- In Minich v. County of Jefferson, a court upheld an ordinance prohibiting the possession of weapons in county buildings, stating that the right to bear arms may be restricted "for the good order of society and the protection of the citizens."
- In Morley v. City of Phila. Licenses & Inspections Unit, a court upheld the denial of a firearms license, stating that "although the right to bear arms is a constitutional right, it is not unlimited, and restrictions are a proper exercise of police power if they are intended to protect society."
- In Gardner v. Jenkins, a court stated, "The right to bear arms…is not unlimited and may be restricted in the exercise of the police power."
- In In re Firearms, Eleven, a court held that the right to bear arms is lost through a felony conviction.
- In R.H.S. v. Allegheny County Dep't of Human Servs., a court noted that "the right to bear arms is not unlimited; it may be restricted in the exercise of police power for the good order of society and protection of citizens."…
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