Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Actually, it just means that employees can leave their guns out of sight in their locked cars at work (or if the car is “attended” it does not have to be locked. Get ready for loaded guns in school parking lots statewide, just in case they’re needed in a hurry because a critter wanders onto school grounds during open season. What a great concept!

  2. Two things:

    1. Mayor Nutter says 85% of gun crimes are with illegal guns. This legislation has no bearing on that but does anecdotally prove the position that more gun control laws don’t stop criminals from using them.

    2. As I understand the legislation (and this may not be 100%) it only gives workers the right to bring their firearms to a work parking lot and they must be properly stored/locked there. This is not a “bring your gun to work” initiative that allows employees to carry in the office.

    As for the difference between cars, pets and guns: many people, myself included, don’t check or notice their firearms everyday. We store them and take them out again when we need them (ie hunting season.) hUnder lost and stolen, even if I reported the minute I found out, I would still be subject to police/legal questioning of my report – as if I were the criminal. It is subjective in enforcement and that’s never good.

    As for your comment about being for the 2nd Amendment and gun control, that is a matter of opinion. Many Pennsylvanians feel there are plenty of gun control laws on the books (and that many aren’t enforced); others feel we need more. And some believe more wont make a difference because criminals don’t follow the laws.

      1. Which this law will do little to nothing to address. There are laws on the books dealing with straw sales, so obviously they either (a) aren’t working or (b) aren’t being enforced. Set up sting operations, catch the people doing them and lock them up. That sends a message.

    1. 2 things.

      1. Should the presence of potentially dangerous items on personal property be regulated by the property (or business) owner?

      2. It is understandable that you might not check your personal weapons daily. I don’t understand your objection based on one being potentially subjected to questioning. I think that it is a stretch to say that a person would be subject to (what I assume would be intensive) questioning without any basis in potential criminal involvement – meaning that the questioning would come if your weapon happened to also be involved in a crime. But wouldn’t you be subject to such questioning regardless? Or are you suggesting that the mere reporting of a weapon as lost or stolen would subject you to questioning?

      I’m just not sure that the concern really holds much weight. I would presume that you and probably 99% of gun owners would report it stolen as soon as you discover it is missing. And it would be relatively simple to show that a hunting rifle may not be noticed as missing until you go to use it or go to perform routine maintenance or what have you. The same may not be true for a handgun but still I am sure there are some folks who own a handgun but would not notice it going missing. I just can’t imagine that police would be all that troubled if you did not notice a missing hunting rifle until the approach of hunting season or a hand gun missing beyond questioning why you didn’t notice it missing.

      As to the laws about straw sales – I don’t know enough about existing laws but my guess would be enforcement problems. But it also could be an issue of not having much muscle behind the law – if the penalty for straw sales is not strong enough it may be worth the risk for some folks – again I don’t know enough.

        1. I understand that. I think it is reasonable to have a handgun and not check it daily or maybe even weekly depending on your reason for the handgun. Certainly if you don’t keep hunting rifles in a case where you can see them same goes for those. That wasn’t really my question. I’m just trying to understand your objection to the law. And in my first statement wondering if it shouldn’t be up to the business owner or property owner whether someone possessed a weapon on his/her property.

    2. Mayor Nutter ‘actually’ said… Guns were used in 85% of the murders committed in Philadelphia , ALL of which were illegal…

  3. Everybody is missing the picture here. A coworker of mine was recently fired over a gun in his vehicle. The guy had a proper permit to have it. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us we have a no weapons policy. A boss overheard his conversation that he kept it in his vehicle and that was that. We work in a bad area so why should our right to protect ourselves on the way to and from work be taken away at the companies discretion?

    1. Joe, I think you hit the nail on the head! As it now stands, employers can (and often DO) infringe on 2nd amendment rights by incorporating “no weapons in company parking lot” policies. The subsequent result: law abiding citizens are deprived of the ability to adequately defend themselves during their daily commutes. No matter that some of these same employers often select work sites in dangerous crime riddled areas purely to minimize overhead and maximize profit, without any concern for the safety of their human assets.

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