A pit bull lunges for a 4-year-old boy as he walks with his father to Saturday services at a Harrisburg synagogue. The father pulls his pistol and shoots the dog. In the parking lot of an Annville-Cleona school, a student finds a loaded handgun. Turns out, a school bus driver with a permit to carry it dropped it from her purse.
In the wake of a shooting outside Harrisburg Mall, police arrest and then release an armed man in a car. He's not a suspect, they say, and he has a permit to pack that pistol. Recent stories like these point to a quiet revolution in American gun laws that began two decades ago, with Pennsylvania in the vanguard.
Five in every 100 midstaters 21 and older have a permit to carry a concealed gun. Statewide, the number is almost seven in every 100, according to state police records reviewed by The Patriot-News.
And the number of permits is climbing. Amid a recent campaign by gun-rights groups to encourage applications, sheriffs around the state saw a sharp increase in applications last year.
Gun-rights activist Kim Stolfer says he doubts there were as many as 10,000 Pennsylvanians with concealed-weapon permits before the state law changed in 1989.
Now there are more than three times that many in the four-county midstate alone, records show. Statewide, the number is almost 600,000.