Vigilance of Pennsylvania gun rights supporters again on display-AP


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Matt King
September 8, 2007, 07:28 PM
MARK SCOLFORO
The Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. - The state's plan seemed simple enough: Starting on a holiday weekend and for a few days at most, shut down a computer system used for criminal background checks on gun buyers so that important technological upgrades could be made.

But a backlash and an unsuccessful court challenge ensued, providing a potent lesson to the state's political leaders about the sensitivities and vigilance of the state's gun rights supporters , and yet another reminder of the challenges faced by gun control advocates in Pennsylvania.

Protests over what others may have considered a slight infringement on gun sales became so vociferous that Gov. Ed Rendell agreed to give the subject a second look before eventually deciding, for practical and financial reasons, to go ahead as planned with the Labor Day shutdown.

But the gun rights lobby had once again made its presence felt, even if it didn't win the fight outright: The upgrades took about a day-and-a-half, allowing the system to go back online faster than anticipated, and state officials contritely promised to consult with sportsmen's groups and gun dealers in the future before taking actions that affect them.

It was not the first time this year that a gun issue has proved explosive in Pennsylvania politics. Back in April, a Philadelphia Democrat's proposal to require gun registration and an annual per-gun fee drew hundreds of angry protesters to a Capitol rally that featured a banner suggesting he should be "hung from the tree of liberty for treasonous acts against the constitution."

And that was for a legislative proposal widely seen as going nowhere.

Gun violence plagues many Pennsylvania cities and has been driving Philadelphia's rising homicide count, which stood at 288 as of Wednesday , 22 more than the same time last year.

But any effort to address it has to pass muster with the gun lobby, or risk mobilizing the formidable network of its supporters that is poised to respond at the first hint Second Amendment rights could be in jeopardy.

"Of all the groups I've ever dealt with, this by far is probably the most vocal, the most organized and the most politically savvy , communication-wise as well as networking , that I've seen in my time the Legislature," said 16-term Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

In the fight over the computer shutdown, the state Senate's highest-ranking Republican stoked the flames on the computer-upgrade shutdown when he called it an attempt by "liberals from Philadelphia" to limit gun rights.

But gun owners count among their allies powerful lawmakers from both parties, and for good reason. Gun ownership is important to many Pennsylvanians, the National Rifle Association has about 250,000 dues-paying members in the state, and last year the state awarded nearly 900,000 "antlerless" deer hunting licenses.

"I think if you look at the average person in Pennsylvania, whether they hunt or are not a gun owner , and this can be taken across the country , they believe in an individual's right to own a firearm and defend themselves," said John Hohenwarter, an NRA lobbyist.

Gun control advocates say Pennsylvania is a bit of an anomaly, given where it is situated.

Rural and southern states are usually the most reluctant to enact gun-control measures, said Chad Ramsey with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C.

"I think Pennsylvania is out of touch for where it is," he said. "New York, New Jersey, Maryland, they all have much better laws regarding guns."

Earlier this year in Harrisburg, a bill to make gun owners report when their weapons are lost or stolen was voted down in Caltagirone's committee, with a handful of Democrats helping to defeat it.

Facing even longer odds are proposals to let Philadelphia or other municipalities enact local firearms regulations and a Rendell-backed limit on purchases to one gun a month as a way to combat straw handgun purchases.

"I'd love to be able to get a recorded vote on the floor" on one-gun-a.m.onth, Rendell said.

But even then, the governor said, "whether it would change it enough to pass, I don't know."

Pennsylvania gun owners learned the importance of mobilization during bruising legislative battles over gun control measures in 1993 and 1995, said Kim Stolfer, chairman of the Pittsburgh-based Firearms Owners Against Crime.

His group monitors votes and public statements that legislators and challengers make on gun issues, and shares its research with sportsmen's clubs and other interested groups.

"It doesn't matter if you voted right 9,999 times, they only care about the one vote," said Rendell aide Allen Kukovich, who lost his Westmoreland County state Senate seat in 2004 to a relatively unknown township supervisor, Bob Regola, who was closely allied with pro-gun groups. "And that's what creates paralysis in the Legislature. Legislators become scared about this vote, about that one group."

State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, said he regularly hears from constituents about defending the rights of gun owners.

"The NRA has been very effective at building a very solid grass-roots organization in areas all across the state," he said. "When you hear from actual voters in your district, that has actual impact."

http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/state/pennsylvania/20070908_ap_vigilanceofpennsylvaniagunrightssupportersagainondisplay.html

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Mr White
September 8, 2007, 08:40 PM
Yes, as a gun owner, its great to be a Pennsylvanian!

But it ain't all sunshine and roses. Our taxes are high, our roads are terrible, Our liberal governor wants to make I-80, which runs the length of the state and which I travel quite often, a toll road in order to subsidize the failing mass transit systems of Philly and Pittsburgh, Our states business taxes are so bad that good insustries and hi tech companies are leaving the state in droves. I could go on, but suffice it to say that other than for gun and hunting related reasons, this state kind of sucks to live in.

Fisherman_48768
September 8, 2007, 09:05 PM
MARK SCOLFORO of The Associated Press certainly shows his bias with this seemly innocent comment.
"I think Pennsylvania is out of touch for where it is," he said. "New York, New Jersey, Maryland, they all have much better laws regarding guns."

Antis' just can't seem to understand that not everyone thinks like them. :cuss:

45Badger
September 8, 2007, 09:23 PM
Rural and southern states are usually the most reluctant to enact gun-control measures, said Chad Ramsey with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C.

"I think Pennsylvania is out of touch for where it is," he said. "New York, New Jersey, Maryland, they all have much better laws regarding guns."

Wrong quote, I think....

Standing Wolf
September 8, 2007, 09:50 PM
Antis' just can't seem to understand that not everyone thinks like them.

Oh, yes, they can! They simply haven't figured out how to silence us—yet.

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