gun-control

Question: Why Can’t Washington Legislators Support Common Sense Gun Violence Bills? Answer: They are Politicians!

We learned this week that the Senate Democrats have dropped an effort to include a ban on assault weapons from their broader gun control plan expected to be introduced to Congress next month.  They conceded that a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines did not have the votes to pass.  However, VP Joe Biden is refusing to give up on the assault weapon ban; questioning the courage of members of Congress.  He stated, “…That weapon of war has no place on American streets, and taking it off American streets has no impact on one’s constitutional right to own a weapon.”

Seriously, what does it take to get these weapons off the streets?  In December, Adam Lanza committed mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School using a Bushmaster AR-15 “assault-type weapon”, a semiautomatic rifle that could rapidly fire multiple rounds.  Lanza was also equipped with magazine clips that held 30 bullets each.  If the innocent killing of 26 people isn’t the impetus for banning assault weapons in this country, what is? It is heartbreaking that some Washington legislators are more interested in the support of special interest groups than in doing what is right and passing a common sense gun violence bill. I would like to see these politicians forced to own their conscience in a roll-call vote; let us publicly see which side of the issue they stand.

Could our forefathers ever have envisioned Americans using assault weapons when designing the Second Amendment of the Constitution? How is that people can argue that banning assault weapons violates the 2nd amendment … this country had an assault weapon ban for 10 years and I do not recall it was ever legally challenged as unconstitutional.  The assault weapon ban simply expired.  If the argument is that assault weapons should not be banned because the Constitution does not specifically say that, why not take that argument further; the Constitution also doesn’t specify that the mentally ill or felons cannot own guns.

Unlike the United States, Australia was successful in passing legislation to ban assault weapons in 1996, in response to the massacre of 35 people.  Australia’s law banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns.  It also instituted a mandatory buy-back program for newly banned weapons.

For those who would like to argue that banning assault weapons in the United States would not make a difference, I suggest that Australia’s statistics say otherwise.  According to an Australian National University study, the firearm homicide rate fell by 59% and the firearm suicide rate fell by 65% in the decade after the 1996 law was introduced.  These statistics indicate that Australia’s experience with an assault weapon ban provides strong evidence for the effectiveness of such legislation.  In addition, it should be noted that Australia’s sweeping gun control measures occurred twelve days after the April 28, 1996 massacre, the worse mass murder in Australia’s history.   In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, with our nation shocked and looking for answers, why can’t we learn from Australia’s example? Why reinvent the wheel, when Australia has successfully prevented gun massacres for over 15 years by banning assault type weapons and magazine clips over 10 rounds?

To be clear, I get it that stronger gun legislation, through banning of assault weapons and reducing clip sizes is not necessarily a favorable position, particularly among some in Pennsylvania. Taking the discussion to the state level, I was troubled to read a press release from the office of PA State Rep Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler).  He and fellow State Representative, Seth Grove (R-York) announced that they are actively pursuing out-of-state gun manufacturers and encouraging their relocation to Pennsylvania, claiming that our state has the “single largest per capita representation of National Rifle Association (NRA) members”.

According to Metcalfe, who is the prime sponsor of the Right to Bear Arms Protection Act (House Bill 357), “Pennsylvania is a natural fit for any of our nation’s major producers of guns, ammunition, or accessories that are currently looking for a new home due to the imposition of senseless, gun-grabbing legislation by their state or local governments.”

Passionate supporters of the Second Amendment and motivated by economic development, Metcalfe and Grove are rolling out the welcome mat to woo gun manufacturers including Beretta and Remington, to the Commonwealth.  With Metcalfe and Grove posing as the front men for the NRA, there should be no doubt, where these two stand on banning assault weapons.

Buoyed by his proposed legislation, House Bill 357, Right to Bear Arms Protection Act, Metcalfe is determined to override any gun restrictions that Washington may come up with – HB 357 would actually prohibit the enforcement of any new federal registration, restriction or prohibition requirement for privately owned guns and ammunition.  If passed, the bill further would require the state of Pennsylvania, including the Attorney General, to intercede on behalf of the citizens against any federal attempt to restrict, register or ban gun purchases, which are currently legal products.

I don’t claim to be any constitutional scholar but how is it possible that a state law, like HB 357 (should it pass) could legally stand up against a federal law?  Wouldn’t any federal law, like banning the sale of assault weapons, take precedent over Metcalfe’s proposed House Bill 357? Nevertheless, Metcalfe and Grove are using their pro-gun message to reach out to gun manufacturers in less gun-friendly states, in hopes of encouraging them to relocate to Pennsylvania.

Is this the new approach to economic development in Pennsylvania?

NRA Statement: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”

In advance of today’s statement, The National Rifle Association stated that the organization would offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure that this never happens again.” In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, I was hopeful that the NRA would nudge national laws toward making it hard to gain access to some semi-automatic weapons, such as the one used last week.  I was hopeful that the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary might trigger a change in the NRA’s policy toward gun control.

Unfortunately, the olive branch of compromise was not what the NRA had in mind.  The NRA broke their week-long silence with a statement read by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre that calls for guns at every school in America.  While the President is calling on Congress to act on gun control legislation, LaPierre believes that the only effective way to protect our schoolchildren is with “properly trained armed good guys”. 

Echoing the sentiments of some Community Matters commentators, LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” adding, “Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away … or a minute away?”  Others have argued on Community Matters, that rather than banning guns, the government should be arming teachers and administrators in schools so that they can defend students in the event of another school shooting.

LaPierre’s words scoffed at the notion that banning semi-automatic weapons or enacting gun control laws could stop school violence.  Instead, he cast blame for gun violence in schools on the violence of video games and movies.

The NRA statement did nothing to address the problem of the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Although the weapons used by the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary were legal, one-third or more of gun sales remain unregulated in the secondary market, which includes not only the gun show loophole but also private sales between individuals.  NRA … why not address establishing a system of comprehensive background checks for gun purchasers?

The spirits of the twenty children killed last week will haunt us all this holiday season. It is unbelievable that the NRA’s response to the Sandy Hill tragedy is to arm more Americans. According to the NRA, the most effective way to protect against another horror like last week’s school shooting is … more guns.

The NRA’s failure to consider any meaningful gun regulations is offensive and is no way to honor the memories of the twenty-eight lives lost last week.

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A couple of related  gun and school safety items:

Alan Thomas, Main Line Media News, spoke with Tredyffrin’s Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo on the procedure for turning in a gun to the police department, read ‘Turning in a gun, how it’s done” for details.  According to Giaimo, to date for 2012, there have been 6 guns turned in, none of which were assault weapons.

In response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, the T/E School District has scheduled a ‘Community Meeting on School Safety’ for Wednesday, January 9, 2013, 7 PM at the Valley Forge Middle School auditorium.  The meeting will feature a panel of experienced safety experts including representatives from the Tredyffrin and Easttown police departments, District building architects and representatives from the District Safety Committee.

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?

PA House Bill 1523 Moves a Step Closer to Penalizing Philadelphia for Gun Control Measures

PA House Bill 1523 Update:

Today the Judiciary Committee voted on PA House Bill 1523 which “Clarifies and establishes specific and monetary relief for a person adversely affected by unauthorized municipal regulation of firearms or ammunition.”  The Judiciary Committee voted in favor of HB1523, as amended, with a 19-4 vote. (2 Judiciary Committee members did not vote).  Click here for amended HB 1523.

The NRA-ILA (Institute for Legislative Action) encourages support for HB1523, stating, “This much-needed pro-gun bill would make critical changes to enhance Pennsylvania’s firearm preemption law.”

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York and District of Columbia have statewide ordinances that require the reporting of lost and stolen guns to law enforcement, with several other states considering similar legislation.

With today’s vote, PA House Bill 1523 now moves from the Judiciary Committee to the state house floor for consideration — giving all legislators an opportunity to weigh in on the issue. The vote moves cities like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster that have taken local action to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and straw purchases, one-step closer to financial penalties for enacting their own gun-control measures. HB1523 would allow any gun owner challenging the local ordinance to collect legal fees and damages from the city that passed such an ordinance.

Members of the Judiciary Committee who voted against HB1523 were Eugene DePasquale (D-York), Matthew Bradford (D-Montgomery County), John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) and Ron Waters (D-Philadelphia).  In addition to serving as Pennsylvania state legislators, DePasquale, Bradford and Sabatina are attorneys and Waters is chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.  It is interesting to note that 3 of the 4 Judiciary Committee members who opposed HB1523 are either from Philadelphia or the city’s suburbs.

Now that HB1523 will move to the state house floor for consideration, what are the thoughts of our State Representative Warren Kampf on this matter?  PA House Bill 1523 and lost and stolen gun reporting legislation is a significant issue in Pennsylvania.  Because Kampf’s legislative district is located in the Philadelphia suburbs, and one of the Pennsylvania cities that has a local lost and stolen gun reporting legislation currently on the books, it is important to know the views of our elected official.

According to the NRA-ILA website, HB1523 could move to the full House for second consideration as early as this Wednesday.

I have sent Rep. Kampf an email asking the following two questions and look forward to his response.

(1) What is your view of lost and stolen gun reporting legislation, and
(2) What is your opinion on PA House Bill 1523, and will you support it?

Against Illegal Guns in Pennsylvania

If you follow Community Matters, you know that I support stricter gun control legislation. At the risk of causing another heated exchange over the rights of gun owners, I have an issue with Daryl Metcalfe (R-12) House Bill 1523 that is on Monday’s agenda in Harrisburg. The state House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take a vote on Metcalfe’s proposed pro-gun legislation HB1523 that would hold municipalities financially accountable for enacting gun laws. (To read proposed HB1523, click here).

I understand the meaning of the 2nd amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right of the people to keep and to bear arms. However, I think that most of us could agree that the 2nd amendment was not designed to protect the rights of people to keep and bear ‘illegal’ arms. Every year, thousands of criminals use guns that have been lost or stolen from legitimate owners.

A major research project is not necessary to know that most crimes in America are committed using illegal guns. However for the record, according to their website, www.wheredidtheguncomefrom.com, “… over 80% of guns recovered in crimes are obtained by perpetrators illegally.”

Assuming that you are a responsible gun owner and a supporter of the 2nd amendment; why would you not support keeping illegal guns off the street?  If you discovered that your firearm has been lost or stolen, why would you not support reporting it missing to the local police?  I cannot imagine under what conditions, a gun owner would not want to do this.

Reporting lost or stolen guns would help the local police with gun trafficking and crack down on straw purchases — people who buy guns and then sell them illegally to people who can’t buy them on their own.  Isn’t this commonsense reform? How’s it any different from someone stealing your car — you’d report that to the police, wouldn’t you?

In Pennsylvania, a gun owner does not have to report their firearm lost or stolen.  But some municipalities have ordinances that require gun owners to report the loss or theft of a gun to the local police, within a certain time from when they discover the gun is missing.  Each municipality determines the time. These 14 cities in Pennsylvania have passed lost and stolen firearm reporting ordinances:

  • Allentown
  • Clairton
  • Erie
  • Harrisburg
  • Homestead
  • Lancaster
  • Munhall
  • Oxford
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Pottsville
  • Reading
  • West Homestead
  • Wilkinsburg

These cities and towns across Pennsylvania have taken action to crack down on illegal gun trafficking, but on Monday, Harrisburg may overturn these local decisions. House Bill 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 challenging the local ordinance to collect legal fees and damages from the city that passed such an ordinance.

If members of the house Judiciary Committee are serious about upholding the law of Pennsylvania, they should follow the example set by these 14 municipalities!   Rather than “cracking down” on communities that don’t follow the gun lobby’s agenda, the Judiciary Committee should recommend a statewide lost or stolen firearms reporting requirement that would help the local police with their efforts to crack down on illegal guns on the streets.

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As an addendum to this post, look for an unprecedented commercial during the Super Bowl on Sunday.  The mayors of Boston and New York may be cheering for opposing teams but they are on the same side when it comes to gun control.  New York City’s Michael Bloomberg and Boston’s Thomas Menino have filmed a 30-second commercial for stricter gun control legislation, which will air during the big game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots. Bloomberg and Menino are founders of Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition which lists over 600 mayors across the country as members.

Bambi May Soon Have Another Day to Worry About Hunters

It has been awhile since I visited the topic of gun control and 2nd amendment rights on Community Matters.  For those that followed the gun control discussion, you may recall my dismay last year over the federal legislation that lifted the ban on guns in national parks (including Valley Forge).   

The blog post, Semi-Automatic Weapons in Valley Forge National Historical Park . . . Do You Feel Safer?  generated much debate in the 50+ comments on guns in national parks, many from 2nd Amendment supporters. As a result, my naïveté on guns and gun controls was put to the test.  That discussion extended to a broader discussion of gun control in our community.  I learned that many living in this community not only supported their right as an American to bear arms, but that it was clear from comments, that many did! 

Although not swayed by the overwhelming pro-gun rights comments, I did find myself sitting in the minority; continuing to support stricter gun control rules. I wrote, ” . . . I know the argument that strict gun control does not reduce crime because it does not keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. Criminals do not abide by waiting periods or registration requirements. The only people affected by these so-called ‘gun control’ measures are law-abiding citizens, who are rendered less able to resist crime.  However almost daily, our world is filled with news of gun violence in this country . . . in shopping malls, on college campuses, office buildings. . . “

In addition to discussing 2nd amendment rights and gun-control issues, Community Matters visited the subject of the overpopulation of deer in the area, specifically in Valley Forge National Historical Park.  With a two-year plan in place, skilled sharp shooters began last winter to reduce the deer population from 1,250 to 200 in the park.  Although I cringed at the idea of guns in Valley Forge Park and the shooting of deer, I took solace in knowing that 7,000 pounds of venison was donated to the needy.

At this point, I am sure you are wondering why this walk down memory lane?  Answer: deer hunting.  I do not claim to know much about deer hunting – I actually don’t know the dates of deer hunting season.  I do not know when it is ‘bow’ season any more than I know when it is gun season for deer hunting, nor do I know many deer per hunter is allowed – just don’t know any of the specifics.  I am not a hunter so why would I need to know this information.  As a “stricter gun control supporter”, and probably not likely to become a deer hunter, I do admit I was interested to learn of House Bill 1760 that would allow deer hunting on Sundays.  Deer hunting on Sundays . . . ?  I didn’t know that Sunday deer hunting was illegal in Pennsylvania.  Apparently, hunters in Pennsylvania can legally kill foxes, coyotes and crows on Sunday, just not deer. Pennsylvania is one of 9 states that do not permit Sunday deer hunting. 

According to a recent Daily Local article, “ . . . Sunday hunting is expected to generate $629 million in additional spending and create up to 5,300 new jobs, resulting in $18 million in additional sales and income tax. . . ”  In addition, Sunday hunting is expected to generate a substantial increase in out-of-state license revenue.

So here’s my question. . .  if the current law allows deer hunting 6 days a week, why not allow hunting all 7 days of the week?  I may not be a gun-supporter nor a deer hunter (and I appreciated that I am in the minority) but I don’t understand ‘why’ deer hunters cannot hunt on Sundays?  I guess I can see the purpose of House Bill 1760 – if you support deer hunting 6 days a week, why not support deer hunting on Sundays.

Gun-Related Stories Too Close to Home

The Valley Forge National Historical Park has reached about half of its goal of deer reduction for this winter.  To date the sharp shooters have killed 225 deer as part of the operation to reduce the deer population.  Over the next two years, the park plans to reduce the deer population from about 1,250 to under 200. I know that we have a deer problem; I see the problem in my backyard each day.  I just cringe with the idea of guns in the park and the shooting of the deer.  Why can’t there be a better way – and no, I don’t think coyotes are the answer.  I rationalize that the ‘good news’ to this story is that 7,000 pounds of venison as been donated to the needy.

On the subject of guns, a couple of other recent gun-related stories caught my attention.  According to a police report, there was a recent road-rage incident on Valley Forge Road near Swedesford Road.  The incident occurred at 3 PM in the afternoon on a Saturday afternoon and involved two people.  Police say that Kevin Miller, 33 of Plymouth Meeting was arrested for making terroristic threats and Kathleen Penjuke, 40 of King of Prussia was issued a citation for disorderly conduct.  It is alleged that Miller waved a gun at an unidentified victim and that Penjuke gestured and yelled at the victim as they passed on the shoulder of the road.  The police report does not indicate any further information and the people involved apparently have not had their court date.  The scary part of the story is that we have someone in a car ‘waving a gun’ at another individual.

This other story is just sad.  This past Friday afternoon in Westtown a 14-yr. old boy shot and killed his 12-yr. old sister.  How could this happen?  Although the police investigation has not determined all the details, I will choose to believe it was a tragic accident.   The blame must go beyond the young boy that pulled the trigger.  Why was this firearm not secured?  Where were the responsible adults in the house?  Depending on the outcome of this case, the parents may lose not one but could possibly lose both of these children.

I accept that there are readers of Community Matters who completely support the right for individuals to own and carry guns.  However, hearing these gun-related stories reaffirms for me that we need stricter gun-control laws. I just cannot believe that our founding fathers could have imagined the world as it now is when designing the Constitution.

Castle Doctrine – House Bill 40 . . . Discharge Petition Vote Tomorrow in Harrisburg

I was troubled to hear of the Seton Hall University, E. Orange, New Jersey shooting last night.  Having been denied access to the  private college party,  the gunman later returned and began shooting, killing one student and injuring 4 others.  The gunman remains at large.

For those that regularly follow Community Matters, you are aware of my somewhat naive views on local gun ownership and support for gun control legislation. So you may find the following an interesting email that I received today from Daniel Pehrson, the Founder & President Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association concerning the discharge petition filed for House Bill 40, Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine bill.  In order to get the bill to the House floor for consideration, this petition must be approved. 

House Bill 40, sponsored by State Rep Scott Perry (R-92), would, “ permit law-abiding citizens to use force, including deadly force, against an attacker in their homes and any places outside of their home where they have a legal right to be.   HB 40 would also protect individuals from civil lawsuits by the attacker or the attacker’s family when force is used.”

Important Castle Doctrine Vote Monday! We need your help to break through anti-gun tricks and get a vote on House Bill 40

Over the past year gun owners in Pennsylvania have made great strides in getting Castle Doctrine (House Bill 40), past all the anti-gun roadblocks placed in our way, and believe me, they’ve tried every trick in the book. On Monday, September 27, there will be a pivotal vote on a discharge petition, which would put a stop to all the dirty tricks from anti-gun politicians, and get us one step closer to an actual vote on the House floor. The Castle Doctrine bill that has wide bi-partisan support, and should easily pass if we can get this discharge petition moving H.B.40 forward.

Because of this we need you to contact your state representative and politely let them know you expect them to support the discharge petition and floor vote for H.B.40.

Your action on this matter is urgently necessary for us to pass these much needed reforms. Reforms that would protect law-abiding gun owners, like yourself, from prosecution and lawsuits should you ever be forced to defend yourself inside, or outside of your home.

Continuing the Local Gun Discussion . . . Supreme Court to Weigh in on Chicago's Handgun Ban . . . Will High Court Uphold Federal Law Over State Law? What Does this Mean for Pennsylvania Gun Owners?

When I wrote Semi-Automatic Weapons in Valley Forge National Historical Park . . . Do You Feel Safer? a couple of days ago, I could never have forecasted the interest in the topic.  Although admittedly surprised by many of the responses (50 comments on this topic!), I was fascinated by the strong opinions of many in this community.  The ‘right to bear arms’ topic has opened up conversations (and debates) among family members and friends.  I had intended to move on from this topic but I received several emails over the weekend encouraging further discussion.  I feel strongly that we learn from each other by exchanging ideas and information.  The evolution of Community Matters as a new informal communication channel can help to educate us, if we are willing to listen to each other.  Although I would be the first one to encourage lively debate, I would ask that you be respectful with your comments.

Several people commented on the June 2008  Supreme Court decision which struck down a handgun ban in Washington, D.C., and declared that individuals have a constitutional right to possess firearms for self-defense and other purposes. The Washington, D.C. lawsuit marked the first time that the highest court ruled that US citizens have a right to own guns for self-defense. The Second Amendment to the Constitution speaks of the right to bear arms in the context of a “well-regulated militia.” 

Over the weekend, we were out to dinner with friends at Majolica www.majolicarestaurant.com in Phoenixville (highly recommend!) and  spent much of the evening discussing the Second Amendment law, the new federal park gun legislation and many comments and opinion that were shared on this blog. 

There is a new Second Amendment Supreme Court case which will look at the handgun law in the city of Chicago.  The Supreme Court argument starting tomorrow will decide whether the Second Amendment — like much of the rest of the Bill of Rights — applies to states as well as the federal government. It’s widely believed they will say it does.

This new Second Amendment Supreme Court lawsuit was filed by an elderly, African-American Chicago resident who said he wants to defend himself.  Otis McDonald, 76, is suing the city over its gun ban, says he keeps a 20-guage shotgun at home to protect himself from the neighborhood gangs. But even if the court strikes down handgun bans in Chicago and its suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, that are at issue in the argument to be heard Tuesday, it could signal that less severe rules or limits on guns are permissible. An interesting aside to this latest lawsuit is that Chicago is President Obama’s hometown. The US Supreme Court justices will be deciding whether the Second Amendment right of every US citizen to possess arms for self-defense should apply to local as well as federal laws. The latest high court lawsuit will look at Chicago’s 1982  ban on handguns; determining whether federal decisions should apply to local law.

On the eve of this latest Second Amendment case, I was interested in understanding what the Pennsylvania State laws were in regard to gun ownership, age, restrictions, etc.  Although I claimed to be naive on the subject of local gun ownership in my last post, I researched Pennsylvania’s current legislation.  The following is offered to those who are also uninformed on the subject of owning firearms in Pennsylvania.  I don’t recall anyone mentioning the ‘open carry’ policy. 

Would you rather people have their guns out in the open, or concealed?  Do you think that the open display of weapons would help (or hurt) possible incidents of violence?  I am curious how the police feel about the ‘open carry’ policy . . . wonder if they would rather know that a person is armed?

Owning Firearms in Pennsylvania

  1. Do I have to register my firearms in Pennsylvania?
    No, in fact in Pennsylvania it is actually illegal for any government or police agency to keep a registry of firearms per 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4 (Registration of firearms). If you legally possess and bring your firearms into Pennsylvania or come into possession of the firearms legally, no further action is required.It should be noted however that all transfers of handguns in Pennsylvania are required to go through the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) and as such the Pennsylvania State Police keep a “Sales Database” of all handguns purchased within the Commonwealth. While almost any casual observer can see that this database clearly violates the spirit of 18 Pa.C.S. § 6111.4 (Registration of firearms), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed with the Pennsylvania State Police that because the database is not a complete record of all handgun ownership (as people bringing handguns into the state do not have to register them), it does not.
  2. How old must one be to possess a firearm? Per 18 Pa.C.S. § 6110.1 (Possession of firearm by minor), the minimum age to possess a firearm is 18 with two exceptions:
    1. The minor is under the supervision of a parent, grandparent, legal guardian, or an adult acting with the expressed consent of the minor’s parent or legal guardian and involved in lawful activity.
    2. The minor is lawfully involved in hunting or trapping activities.

Is open carry legal in PA?

Answer: Yes, with some restrictions.

Anyone whom can legally own a firearm in the commonwealth can openly carry, on foot, with the exception of court facilities, federal buildings, motor vehicles and cities of the first class (Philadelphia)  While Pennsylvania has a specific law that requires a License To Carry Firearms for the concealed carry of a firearm, and the carry of firearms in vehicles, the law is silent on the legality of openly carrying a firearm in other situations; which if I understand the law makes it de-facto legal. 18 Pa.C.S. § 6108: Carrying firearms on public streets or public property in Philadelphia

  • No person shall carry a firearm, rifle or shotgun at any time upon the public streets or upon any public property in a city of the first class unless:

(1) such person is licensed to carry a firearm; or

(2) such person is exempt from licensing under section 6106(b) of this title (relating to firearms not to be carried without a license).

Semi-Automatic Weapons in Valley Forge National Historical Park . . . Do You Feel Safer?

This past week brought much discussion on Community Matters about sidewalks, trails and paths.  Several people suggested that if you want to walk or bicycle, why not just use the paths at Valley Forge National Historical Park.  With that in mind, I wrote the following post with the hope of engaging some lively discussion.

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The next time you decide to visit Valley Forge Park to enjoy a bicycle ride or an afternoon of sledding with the kids, are you going to feel safer? 

Did you know that as of this week, fellow visitors with proper gun permits can legally pack heat inside our national parks, including Valley Forge National Historical Park?

Yes, a law that took effect Monday lifted the long-standing ban on bringing guns into our national parks.  In Valley Forge National Historical Park, as we walk the trails and enjoy family picnics, tourists will be allowed to carry guns – handguns, rifles, shotguns and AK-47s. Now, as long as guns are allowed by state law, licensed gun owners can bring firearms on park property.  Guns will be allowed in all but about 20 of the park service’s 392 locations, including some of its most iconic parks: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as historic parks, including our own Valley Forge National Historical Park. Guns will not be allowed in visitor centers or rangers’ offices, because firearms are banned in federal buildings, but they could be carried into private lodges or concession stands, depending on state laws.

The new rule allows people to carry firearms, including semi-automatic weapons, in most national parks and wildlife refuges, so long as they follow the gun laws of the state. (That could get a little complicated, as more than 30 parks occupy land in multiple states.) The rule means people can now carry concealed weapons while camping in places like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

I admit up front that I am one of the people with issues concerning the availability of guns in this country.  My stance on stricter gun control rules will certainly strike a chord among some of the readers. I know the argument that strict gun control does not reduce crime because it does not keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. Criminals do not abide by waiting periods or registration requirements. The only people affected by these so-called “gun control” measures are law-abiding citizens, who are rendered less able to resist crime. However almost daily, our world is filled with news of gun violence in this country . . . in shopping malls, on college campuses, office buildings.

Gun crimes in any setting are horrific. However, crimes committed on the grounds of an academic institution take on an almost macabre air because of the serene atmosphere associated with such places. Gun violence on school campuses is a stark reminder that guns cannot discriminate amongst their victims, nor can they discern the intentions of those who wield them. This is repeated so often that it may as well be a cliché. If events over the past decade are any indicator, no positive response seems forthcoming. Though it is a human who pulls the trigger, there is no violent crime without the proverbial smoking gun. National parks [Valley Forge National Historical Park] like our educational institutions, are places that enshrine the ideals of knowledge and tranquility . . . should we not feel beholden to preserve these places as a utopian ideal for the future?  Do we want to be remembered as the generation that put guns into paradise?

The way I see it there are two camps on this.  First, there are the people who will feel safer knowing that they can be armed in our national parks, just in case they run into troublesome people or dangerous wildlife.  The second group will feel more unsafe.  You willl never know who is armed, and anytime there is a confrontation, firearms bring a whole new sense of alarm into the equation.  Once you pull that trigger, there’s no taking it back.  From my vantage point, toting firearms into our national parks poses a serious threat to the public.  There, I said it. Personally, the next time I am walking in Valley Forge National Historical Park, I am not going to feel safer knowing that fellow visitors on the path may be legally packing a weapon.

The new law permitting licensed gun owners to bring firearms into national parks has come over the objections of gun-control advocates who fear it will lead to increased violence in national parks.  Responding to the new law, John Waterman, President, US Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police offered the following statement:

The Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police has opposed this ill-considered law from the beginning. The new law goes beyond concealed carry to include all guns anytime.  The chances of an inexperienced visitor who has not seen a bear or buffalo wandering through a campground, gets frightened and takes out the now readily available firearm and shoots blindly at an animal or a person in a misguided effort to “protect themselves” from a perceived threat is now increased.  Allowing untrained and unlicensed people carrying guns in National Parks is an invitation to disaster. It puts the safety of the public and rangers at increased risk and virtually invites the desecration of our natural and historic treasures. 

Pennsylvania has fairly loose restrictions on carrying guns.  As long as a person is legally entitled to own a firearm – for instance they must have no past felony convictions, mental-health commitments or protection-from-abuse order restrictions – there is little stop a person from carrying a gun in public. I am sure that there will be readers who completely disagree with my position on the danger of guns in Valley Forge National Historical Park.  In fact, I am certain that some people will suggest that their ‘right’ to carry a gun should not stop at the park entrance.   

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