NRA

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.

When will the madness end?

When will the madness end?

The last 48 hours has seen a horrible surge of sadness and anger from Americans all across the country.  Another mass shooting.  Another one committed by a young man.  One of the worst mass shootings in America, as if such rankings matter.  From Arizona to Colorado to Oregon to Connecticut, these mass murders will not end.

Innocent  children losing their lives.  In the wake of the unspeakable horror of children being killed while at school, isn’t it time for us to have an earnest national conversation on effective gun control laws?  Will the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut mark a tipping point for the American people to say enough is enough?  When are we going to have the responsibility to take care of each other?

It’s past time to face reality. This is a firearms issue. Can we finally have a rational discussion about the role of guns in our society … please?  The truth is that people with guns kill people. Sandy Hook is the sixth gun massacre this year.  How frequent do the massacres have to become before we can talk about serious gun control?  We, as a nation, need to do better.

For the same reason we are trying to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s arsenal, we should keep semi-automatic weapons out of individuals’ hands. Gun control doesn’t have to mean no guns.  Arguments can be made for shotguns and rifles for hunting and handguns for protection.  But it’s time to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The only purpose of a semi-automatic weapon is to kill numerous people as quickly as possible.  What role would a semi-automatic weapon have for hunting or self-defense?  Yes, mentally ill people kill other people, but the types of weapons they have access to will determine how many people they are able to kill.

The NRA, which objects to any kind of reasonable controls on gun ownership, is certainly part of the problem. Semiautomatic guns and large clips make for mass shootings that are almost impossible to defend against.  Owning or possessing automatic weapons should be illegal for anyone except the military and the police. Why does a hunter or anyone else need an assault rifle, except to kill people?  Outlawing automatic weapons can be done without disturbing the rights of individuals to have and carry pistols and long guns for personal protection and hunting.

While the Second Amendment was meant for protection, guns without regulations give way to nothing but widespread violence and tragedies.   As a country, we need to collectively reconsider the arguments of individual rights in light of the harm done to the thousands of innocent victims shot each year.  I support amending our Constitution to limit the types of weapons that one might bear.  Automatic weapons, with rapid-firing of many bullets, do not seem to be in the scope or spirit of the Constitution.  Your right to bear arms should not mean that you could carry a bazooka or a stinger missile; automatic weapons have no place in a civilized society.

Today I grieve for the families who are in mourning.  Today I grieve for an angry, violent society that has lost its way.

Enough … it is time to call for action.

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?

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.

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. 

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).

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