Pattye Benson

Community Matters

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?

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  1. I’m more aggravated at this point that the NRA has publicly stated that they are against universal background checks. The true colors of that organization has come back to life now that things have died down.

    State to state variations of legal permit laws is ridiculous. I’m not talking about banning anything but people with felonies or who are under psychiatric supervision need to be exactly the same from state to state when it comes to if they can legally buy and carry. I am well aware that this does NOT solve all the problems and that guns are sold illegally every day. But just because they are, doesn’t mean that the states have a responsibility to try to control it.

    It just bothers me that the NRA could have actually gotten behind something meaningful in this debate, but they didn’t.

  2. “Federal laws, in conflict with state laws, are supreme”.

    Only where the federal government is granted an enumerated power does the supremacy clause apply.

    The enumerated powers are found in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution and set forth the authoritative capacity of Congress. Congress may exercise the powers that the Constitution grants it, subject to explicit restrictions in the Bill of Rights and other protections in the Constitution. The Tenth Amendment states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    Now, we all know that the original intent of the Constitution has been morphed to extremes by the U.S. Supreme court rather than by constitutional amendment – which is how the Constitution should properly be modified.

    That the federal government can restrict a farmer growing wheat on his own property for his own consumption and that of his livestock, where said wheat grown on his land never leaves his land, yet can be regulated by Congress under the interstate commerce clause tells me all I need to know about the perversion the Supreme Court has done to the Constitution, as it did in this example in Wickard v. Filburn in the 1940’s.

    In Filburn the Supreme Court reasoned that the power to regulate the price at which commerce occurs was inherent in the power to regulate commerce – regardless of whether said commerce crossed state lines. That’s when free market capitalism absolutely went out the window and crony capitalism between Big Business and government began to rule the roost and control our economy in a manner that has led to price controls, interest rate fixing, massive credit expansion, printing money of thin air and our present government managed economy that is in shambles with Main Street picking up the crumbs of Big Business and Wall Street.

    The same inane argument is used for firearms or anything else. Even if a firearm manufactured within a state with parts completely from that state and never leaves that state, the Supreme Court has ruled that amounts to interstate commerce and can thus be regulated by Congress. Grow tomatoes in your backyard and eat them in your home, and they never leave your home and you never sell them? Just growing them on your property and eating them is interstate commerce according tot he Supreme Court.

    Logic would dictate Congress only has control over products that cross state lines and are for sale or used in trade per the interstate commerce clause in Article 1, Section 8, but who ever said laws make sense?

    Thus, you are correct. The supremacy clause controls anything Congress wants to do and the Tenth Amendment is essentially a piece of toilet paper for the founders to blow their noses with.

    And how about the militia clause of Article 1, Section 8 applying to federal authority to regulate firearms? That’s an interesting one given the Supreme Court recently codified an individual right in the Heller case.

    “Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

  3. Criminals don’t obey laws. Especially Gun Law’s. Only law-abiding citizens will hand in their lawful weapons. So that criminals will be the only ones with Guns that’s going to be pretty stupid… as for if our forefathers go they think we should have equal arms so the govt isn’t STRONGER…. they would be okay with US having TANKS …. God Bless America Land of the Free!! The FREELOADERS!!

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