Pennsylvania Legislature Divided on Gun Control

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

I can’t say whether Pennsylvania is turning into a blue state or not, though it’s definitely leaning that way. The only thing preventing it is that Republicans control the Senate.

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A divided legislature can create some serious difficulties for any government. Different parties have different priorities and unless both sides are willing to work together, not a lot gets done. This can be an issue on things like budgets, for example.

For gun control, though, it really depends on who you’re talking to as to whether it’s a good thing or not.

The crowd at Brady, Giffords, Everytown, and other such groups would say it’s a terrible thing, that a divided legislature prevents those “common sense measures” from becoming law.

On the flip side, those of us who actually exercise common sense can breathe a sigh of relief for our friends in Pennsylvania.

The Judiciary Committee in Pennsylvania’s Democrat-controlled House of Representatives recently advanced a package of gun control bills, including a measure to ban the sale of “assault rifles,” or automatic and semi-automatic guns.

“Today we are taking the next step to enact bills to protect our children and keep our communities safe from gun violence, but House Republicans are fighting to the bitter end to continue the status quo,” majority chair Rep. Tim Briggs announced on social media. “Enough is enough; we need action now.”

I suppose now is a good time to remind everyone that nationally, rifles aren’t regularly used to take lives. Hands and feet are more common murder weapons than AR-15s and AK-47s.

As such, an assault weapon ban isn’t likely to do anything to make Pennsylvania safer. Yet because good guys like them for things like home defense, such a ban will probably have a negative impact on the state.

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The gulf between parties

The legislation has a long way to go before it can appear on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk, however. The slate passed the committee along party lines. Even if the full House votes them through, they’ll likely face an unwelcome reception in the Republican-majority state Senate.

While gun control advocates have spent years lobbying for these sorts of restrictions, the debate that took place in the House committee before voting reveals the “gulf” between Democrats and Republicans on the issue, analysts have said.

Republicans argued in opposition, citing the U.S. Constitution, as well as a provision in the PA Constitution’s stating that gun ownership rights “shall not be questioned.”

Unfortunately, gun ownership rights are questioned all the time there.

We’ve long seen how some want to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms, all so they can excuse their own failures of leadership.

And despite those constitutional arguments, at least some are desperately trying to bully lawmakers into accepting gun control.

Around the time last November that [Senate Judiciary Committee chair state Sen. Lisa] Baker announced her opposition to the bills, CeaseFire PA, a gun control advocacy group, placed an installation in the state Capitol building—a large clock tracking the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds that pass as they wait for the Senate to take action on the bills. The installation calls out Baker and Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman by name.

“No matter how clever or compelling a pressure campaign may be, that does not necessarily mean the preferred remedy is as easy or enforceable or effective as depicted,” Baker responded at the time.

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Good on Baker for holding firm here.

The truth of the matter is that Pennsylvania doesn’t have a violent crime issue. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have a problem. They have a problem because they’ve dropped the ball on literally everything they could have done to prevent violent crime from taking hold in their cities and rather than acknowledge that fact and potentially lose their jobs, they toss the blame elsewhere.

As for Pennsylvania’s current situation, though, the divided nature of the legislature is probably enough to help curb this horrific attempt at infringing on people’s rights.

Yet don’t count on just that to be enough.

Baker has said there’s a pressure campaign trying to bully her into passing these bills. Two can and should play that game. Start calling and emailing lawmakers if you live in the state. Make your opposition to gun control clear as day.

Urge Baker and others to hold firm. Your rights matter way too much to do otherwise.

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