Pennsylvania Gun Control Bills Defeated in House

AP Photo/Allen Breed, File

The Pennsylvania legislature is an interesting example of what can happen in a swing state. The state Senate is mostly Republican with a six-seat majority while the House is majority Democrat with a two-seat majority.


Which is why we can usually trust that if gun control is going to start somewhere and look to gain some steam, it'll be in the House.

But the majority is slim enough that some particularly egregious measures aren't likely to get enough support as vulnerable Democrats decline to put their political careers at risk over some party position.

That's probably what happened when two gun control bills died in the House this week.

The divisive issue of gun control brought a rally and two failed attempts at passing legislation on Tuesday to the Pennsylvania Capitol.

A bill banning bump stocks and similar devices failed in a 101-100 vote in the Pennsylvania House on a near party-line vote that saw one Democrat, Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria County, side with Republicans in keeping the bill short by a single vote needed to pass.

The same margin held for a bill that would require firearm dealers to report gun sales electronically. Both pieces of legislation could be brought up for reconsideration.

"Look at the FBI crime statistics — actually putting criminals in jail is what works, not creating new crimes. Not by duplicating something that is already covered in federal law," said Rep. Bryan Cutler during the debate over the bump stock bill.


Much of the attention was focused on the bump stock bill, which died because, as Cutler said, it's already illegal currently. Whether that holds or not is irrelevant here and now, and even if it doesn't, we need to remember that bump stocks were used in only one crime that anyway can recall. Yes, it was a horrific one, but thousands of these things were in circulation before Las Vegas. They weren't the problem.

What bothers me more is the attempt at an electronic records mandate.

See, paper records are a pain for dealers in a lot of ways, but it also means they're easy to verify they've been destroyed after the proscribed waiting period has eclipsed. We can tell they've been destroyed.

Electronic records are a different matter entirely. Those are easy to access remotely, helping create the de facto gun registration data the ATF has not-so-secretly lusted after for decades. I also believe that it's an essential step in creating a registration database.

The fact that this was glossed over and got very little discussion in the media is alarming to me.


The good news is that it's dead, just like the much more publicized bump stock ban, a measure that's not nearly as alarming to me under the current circumstances, though most of that is because it is banned at the federal level.

And this was just one vote. One single vote kept this from advancing.

Luckily, it's unlikely that the Senate would have played ball, but thanks to that one vote, it's completely unnecessary.

Gun rights are definitely in jeopardy in Pennsylvania. Remember that when you folks from there head to the polls next. It's a chance to make some changes and protect the right to keep and bear arms.

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