A new bipartisan bill, introduced by over 20 Republicans and one Democrat seeks to make gun owners a protected class of citizens. This would be similar to the federal anti-discrimination law, where a protected class is a group of people with a common characteristic who are legally protected from discrimination on the basis of that characteristic.
Pennsylvania’s proposed law would build on the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act (PHRA). The proposed change, House Bill 38, aims to prevent employers from discriminating against employees who own or carry firearms. House Bill 38 is currently in committee, but should go before the legislature soon. If passed, it would have a major impact on gun owners and businesses.
The primary purpose of House Bill 38 is believed by some to keep business owners from banning firearms on their property. At a minimum, it would allow gun owners to exercise their Second Amendment rights and keep a firearm locked in their car. Perhaps the final language would go further and prevent business owners from banning legally carried firearms entirely.
The PHRA is not without its opposition, of course. According to Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a group aimed at working with law enforcement and community organizations to prevent gun violence in the state, “The Second Amendment right is not overly burdened here, and so why (gun carriers) need to be in a protected class is just a little bit mind-boggling,” Goodman told the Pennsylvania Record. “It’s very easy to get a gun here. We’re an open-carry state, except for Philadelphia. It’s not very hard to get a concealed carry license. We don’t have waiting periods. We don’t have registration and license.
“The issue is, there are some places that don’t want guns on their property—private property owners, private employers, and for good reason. They are worried about workplace violence; they are worried about domestic instances spilling over into workplaces. We see that all the time.” Goodman does not believe the change to the PHRA is equal to other protected classes with protections based on race, ethnicity, age, or disability. However, if the provision were eventually added to the PHRA, employers would be legally bound to put gun owners on equal footing with other protected classes.
Goodman believes including gun owners in the PHRA doesn’t make a lot of sense. She thinks it’s likely the legislation was introduced to work around current laws that allow private property owners to decide whether or not to allow firearms on their property.
“I think it’s really just an end run around this parking lot situation,” Goodman said. “The right to bear arms is a pretty robust right in Pennsylvania, and the language in our constitution is even broader than the language in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
What do you think of the proposed Pennsylvania Law? Should gun owners be a protected class or should business owners be allowed to set the rules on their property? Share your answers in the comment section.