HB 1523

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?


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. 


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.


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.

Community Matters © 2017 Frontier Theme