National Rifle Association

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.


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.

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?

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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