CeaseFirePA

PA Senate Bill 1438 Allows NRA Lawsuits & Provides Take Your Gun to Work Rights

Move over PA House Bill 1523 and make room for PA Senate Bill 1438.  For those following the proposed NRA-supported legislation that would allow someone to sue a municipality for their lost or stolen firearm regulations, the PA House tabled HB 1523 a few weeks ago.

I inaccurately assumed that the reason for the tabling the lost or stolen handgun reporting bill was that our Harrisburg legislators had a change of heart … and decided to support the towns and cities (Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Lancaster, Allentown, etc.) across the state with local reporting ordinances.  However, in a recent meeting with Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-19), he explained that although the House was tabling HB 1523, a similar bill (SB 1438) would be on the Senate agenda when they returned to Harrisburg this week.

Senate Bill 1438 gives gun owners and membership organizations (which includes the National Rifle Association, NRA) legal standing to challenge any of municipality with ordinances that regulate firearms and ammunition. The language of the proposed legislation suggests the legal standing is regardless whether they live (or are connected to) Pennsylvania cities or towns with this kind of gun control ordinances.  By granting legal standing to the NRA, allows the pro-gun organization to sue local municipalities, just like individual gun owners.  Similar to the amended HB 1523, the proposed SB 1438 increases the scope and power of the NRA in Pennsylvania! Senate Bill 1438 has now moved to the Judiciary Committee for review.

If you own a car and it is stolen, you report it.  If you own a pet and it is lost or stolen, you report it. So … if you a responsible gun owner, why would you not want to notify the police if it were stolen?  All you have to say is the word ‘gun’ and some people immediately jump to the conclusion that someone is trying to take away their second amendment rights.

Today, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, mayors from the 30 Pennsylvania cities and towns with lost and stolen gun reporting ordinances are defending their local legislation, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. The mayors believe that their laws are helping to prevent crimes involving illegal guns.  According to Nutter, of the 316 homicides in Philadelphia last year, 85 percent were with guns, all of which were illegal.

As if the HB 1523 was not sufficiently overreaching when it came to the rights of gun owners and the NRA, the proposed Senate bill ratchets the gun owner’s rights ever higher. If I understand the language in HB 1438 correctly, this proposed legislation will block employers from not allowing their employees to bring guns to work.  If the proposed legislation passes, it could be ‘take you gun to work’ everyday and employers cannot set policy opposing it.  Wow.  Therefore, I guess this means that the employer has no rights when it comes to guns in the workplace but rather it is about the employee’s rights – that is, his or her rights to bring their guns to work.  Think about the various types of workplaces and the thought that this proposed legislation would legally permit employees to take their guns … schools, childcare, restaurants, movie theaters, etc.

As I have said before, this is not a Republican versus Democratic issue.  Based on the support for this type of pro-gun legislation in Pennsylvania, it has little to do with party affiliation but more about individual politicians and their constituent base.

Remembering that its election year and some of these politicians need to make sure that they are on the ‘right side’ of the National Rifle Association and, depending on the constituent base they represent, be seen as supporting second amendment rights.  So, here is an interesting thought – to get elected in Pennsylvania in 2012, do candidates have to pack a weapon?  Could it be that candidates fear that they may lose a vote or two if they are seen as supporting pro-gun legislation?  The arm-twisting of the NRA probably assures that some legislators stay on the approved course.

I still have to wonder, why gun control discussion has to be black and white.  Is it not possible to support the Constitution and the Second Amendment but also support some level of gun control in Pennsylvania?

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Will Latest School Gun Violence in Ohio Make a Difference for PA House Bill 1523?

Today in Ohio, there are families making funeral arrangements for three children who died at the hands of another high school student allegedly using a semi-automatic gun stolen from an uncle’s home. This senseless tragedy once again points to why this country needs stricter gun control laws.

Young lives lost and families forever changed. Where is the outrage over this latest school shooting and national demand for stricter gun legislation? How many of our children have to die because of handgun abuse and assault weapon ownership?  Yet, the pro-gun activists will continue to argue against any laws that may place regulation on their gun ownership; defending their firearm rights at all costs.

Will the tragic shooting at Chardon High School– which left three teenagers dead and two others hospitalized – encourage gun reform in America?  Doubtful. For a few days as the shooter’s motives are analyzed, his childhood reviewed and his family scrutinized, there will be national attention and a renewed debate overAmerica’s gun laws.

For those of us that want stricter gun controls in this country, we can hope that the national discussion will lead to change, but as we saw in the aftermath of the high-profile shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, that probably will not happen. Although gun-reform legislation was introduced in Washington in the wake of Giffords shooting, it was never considered.

Do we really believe that is what our founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the second amendment of the US Constitution?  The amendment was designed to protect the right of the people to keep and to bear arms but could the writers have imagined the America of 2012? A country that protects the rights of Americans to own semi-automatic guns and assault weapons.

In a couple of weeks, our state house legislators will have the proposed PA House Bill 1523 on their agenda for discussion.  HB 1523 would penalize cities and towns across Pennsylvania for their commonsense reform that supports keeping illegal guns off the streets.  As amended, proposed HB 1523 legislation grants legal standing to the NRA, allowing the pro-gun organization to sue local municipalities with lost-or-stolen gun legislation, just like individual gun owners.

Illegal guns should to be off the streets of America– lost or stolen guns need to be reported. This week, a 17-year old shooter in Chardon, Ohio used a stolen semi-automatic gun to kill three high school students. Our children should be safe in their schools.  According to Kid Shootings, over 3,000 kids are killed annually by gunfire and 17,500 are injured . . .   every day eight children die from gunshot injuries in this country.  Where else in the world does this happen – only in America.

Will the latest school gun violence in Ohio, make a difference in the minds of Pennsylvania legislators as they review proposed House Bill 1523?

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Will the NRA Control Decisions on HB1523 … Follow the Money!

Here’s a latest update on pending Pennsylvania House Bill 1523 – although on the state House agenda since last Wednesday, the bill has yet to get to the House floor. Today is the last day the House of Representatives are in session before recessing until mid-March.  With at least 13 proposed amendments to the bill, since the proposed legislation left the Judiciary Committee hearing, my guess is there probably will not be a decision today.

Thirty cities and towns across Pennsylvania have taken action to crack down on illegal gun trafficking but the pending bill threatens to punish them for taking local action on illegal gun traffickers and straw purchasers.  As originally written, the bill would allow any gun owner to challenge these local ordinances and to collect legal fees and damages from the city that passed such an ordinance.  As if that was not sufficient, HB1523 got a boost when it left the state Judiciary Committee … the amended HB1523 legislation grants legal standing to the NRA, allowing the pro-gun organization to sue the local municipalities, just like  individual gun owners.

This is the NRA we are talking about – the most powerful lobbying organization in the country! If you look at the supporters of HB1523, you will see support from both sides of the political aisle; this is not a Republican versus Democratic issue.  No, it seems to have less to do with party politics and more to do with legislators feeling the need to stay on the ‘right side’ of the National Rifle Association.

I wonder how many of these Harrisburg legislators have received money from the NRA?  Or, are the legislators involved in current campaigns and feel the need to stay on NRA’s approved list of candidates or elected officials? Some of  the elected officials in Harrisburg apparently do some kind of calculus and figure that there is more to be gained by staying on the ‘right side’ of the NRA than any possible downside to the safety of the local municipalities.

Why should the goals and objectives of the NRA guide the decisions of any local elected official?  Why?  What’s the saying, ‘follow the money’?

Apparently, I am not alone in my opinion.  In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, columnist Monica Yant Kinney writes about HB1523,

“Pennsylvania gun laws are a sick joke. Any state that happily sells buyers unlimited weapons on demand is a state where politicians fear the wrath of the NRA more than the loss of their own lives. … Legislators want to have it both ways: They refuse to protect citizens, but they’ll be damned if they allow cities to do it for them.”

Amen Sister.

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Pending HB 1523 Legislation Would Allow NRA Lawsuits Against Philadelphia

Due to the Marcellus Shale drilling debate, the amended PA House Bill 1523 is now scheduled for second consideration in the state House of Representatives on Monday, February 13.

The passage of HB 1523 to the House included an important amendment approved by the state Judiciary Committee.  The amended HB 1523 legislation would grant legal standing to “a membership organization … that is dedicated in whole or in part to protecting the legal, civil or constitutional rights of its membership.”  What exactly does this mean?  The language would seem to give an organization, say the National Rifle Association (NRA), the same rights as a person when it comes to suing a town or city for enacting local gun reporting regulations. The protection of Second Amendment rights is the mission of the NRA.

Because the state legislature never adopted a statewide law requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns, 30 municipalities across the state, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster, have taken local action in support of lost or stolen gun reporting.  The NRA has challenged the local gun reporting legislation in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh multiple times and the Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly rejected the gun lobby’s challenges.

Pennsylvania House Bill 1523 could be a watershed moment for the NRA in Pennsylvania.  Rather than continuing to take on individual cities or towns over their local gun reporting ordinances, according to the organization’s website, the NRA-backed HB 1523 “… would strengthen Pennsylvania’s firearm preemption law to further ensure firearm and ammunition laws are uniform throughout the state.”  The pending legislation in the state House would allow the NRA to sue any Pennsylvania city with a lost or stolen gun reporting law.

Like the NRA, Kim Stolfer, Chairman of Firearms Owners Against Crime (FOAC) and a pro-gun leader in Pennsylvania, supports HB 1523.  A gun owner rights advocate, Stolfer has posted a number of comments on Community Matters, including

“Our freedoms were carefully drawn up to protect citizens from the vicissitudes of the masses who, history has shown, can be easily manipulated.  We are a nation governed by the ‘rule of law’ with the motto of ‘Justice for All’.  House Bill 1523 will simply provide that a citizen can hold accountable these local communities that exceed their authority and violate Pennsylvania crimes codes and the Constitution.”

Cities and towns across Pennsylvania have taken action to crack down on illegal gun trafficking, but this Monday, Harrisburg could take a step closer to overturning these local decisions.  HB 1523 threatens to punish cities and towns for taking local action to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and straw purchasers.  Philadelphia and the other cities could face financial penalties for enacting their own gun-control measures that supersede state law.  The bill would allow any gun owner (or the NRA) challenging the local ordinance to collect legal fees and damages from the city that passed such an ordinance.

CeaseFirePA joins other organizations, including the state associations of chiefs of police, district attorneys, county commissioners and the League of Cities and Municipalities in opposing HB 1523. On Friday, the organization released an Impact Analysis of HB 1523 (PDF) and I was provided with a copy.

Regardless of how you feel about gun control, CeaseFirePA makes an interesting point to show how financially draining gun owner and gun group lawsuits could be on Pennsylvania cities and towns that are already strapped by tough economic times. As a result of HB 1523, potential lawsuits could actually drain “government revenues from much-needed services, like keeping police on the street.”  The claim from CeaseFirePA is that local governments with gun reporting ordinances may feel ‘blackmailed’ by the threat of lawsuits from gun owners and gun groups, and therefore will simply rescind their ordinances.

CeaseFirePA director Max Nacheman contacted me in regards to the pending legislation and provided the following statement for Community Matters on the proposed legislation:

HB 1523 is an unprecedented attempt by the NRA to seize power in Pennsylvania and legislators should be ashamed for even considering such a callous, dangerous proposal. Communities across the state are literally in a life or death struggle to reduce gun violence — but instead of supporting their efforts, the legislature is helping the gun lobby attack them. If passed, HB 1523 would allow the NRA as an organization to bring frivolous lawsuits against cities that are trying to crack down on illegal gun trafficking — and would set a dangerous precedent in Pennsylvania of allowing lobbyists to use the courts to pursue their own political agenda. 

These “representatives” aren’t just turning their backs on their communities, they are actively trying to hurt them. Among others, State Rep. Tom Caltagirone attacked his home city of Reading by co-sponsoring the bill, and Rep. Todd Stephens abandoned his hometown of Ambler by voting in favor of it in the Judiciary Committee.

Now that more attention has been called to this NRA plot to punish cities for fighting gun crime, it remains to be seen if other suburban legislators like freshman Representative Warren Kampf will stand up to protect his community, or defend his NRA letter grade instead, like so many of his colleagues.

For the record, I sent a follow-up email to Rep Kampf  in regards to his views on the HB 1523, asking whether or not he intends to support the pending legislation.  To date, there has been no response to either of my emails.

If reporting lost or stolen guns would help the local police with gun trafficking and crack down on straw purchases, I remain at a loss as to why responsible gun owners would not support keeping illegal guns off the street by reporting a gun missing or stolen to their local police department. 

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