Jill Porter | Lunacy: 'Premature' gun bill blocked

Posted: June 27, 2007

SANITY LOST OUT to ideology yesterday.

In Harrisburg.

What a surprise.

While shootings continued to shatter the civility of our city, with 200 fatalities and God-knows-how-many injured so far this year, a state legislator refused to move on a bill that might help stem the carnage.

The bill, introduced by Philadelphia Rep. Jewell Williams, would require gun owners to report a firearm lost or stolen within 24 hours. That would stymie straw purchasers from claiming the gun they bought had been lost or stolen when it was linked to a crime.

The bill was on yesterday's Judiciary Committee agenda. Advocates were expecting Chairman Thomas Caltagirone to call for a long-anticipated vote.

Even a defeat would have been better than inaction, because it would have provided a roster of opponents for advocates to lobby - and perhaps oppose - in the next election.

But inaction is what we got, folks.

Caltagirone, Democrat from Berks County, said in a statement he idled the bill "at the request of members of the House Judiciary Committee."

"There is a current attempt by various members and the committee staff on both sides of the aisle to come up with a negotiated piece of legislation that deals with all aspects of gun issues affecting Pennsylvania residents," Caltagirone said.

"It would be premature to deal with House Bill 29 until we see what they can produce."

Premature?

In a city where straw purchasing allows guns to flow unimpeded to street thugs?

In a city where chalk body marks and crime-scene tape are the most popular outdoor decor in some neighborhoods?

No, not premature. Tragically delayed is more like it.

Not to mention that the idea of House members agreeing on anti-crime gun legislation is laughable.

The majority of legislators pledge their allegiance to the NRA, which reflexively opposes all gun measures as embarking on a slippery slope.

The one-gun-a-month bill. The proposal to let Philadelphia pass its own firearms legislation. This common-sense requirement to report guns lost or stolen.

Which makes the prospect of what Caltagirone calls a "negotiated piece of legislation" a joke.

And even if it could happen, he said he woyld then hold more hearings "to ensure that the concerns of all sides are addressed properly."

He'll schedule the hearings, his statement said, "soon after the legislation is formed as to not delay the issue so important to many Pennsylvanians."

I can't tell you how much I appreciate his sense of urgency.

Needless to say the NRA opposed the bill - according to Phil Goldsmith, the city's former managing director who heads CeaseFire PA.

Goldsmith, who joined the NRA in part to be aware of the organization's activities, said he recently received a "membership alert" urging members to contact their state legislators and urge them to vote the bill down.

Thanks to Caltagirone, they won't even need to do that.

A recent poll showed that more than 90 percent of Pennsylvanians favor legislation requiring the reporting of lost and stolen guns, Goldsmith said.

The legislators who oppose House Bill 29 are "out of step with their constituents," he said.

And running against the tide. Last week alone, a New Jersey Assembly committee reported out a similar bill and Connecticut signed one into law.

It's hardly a radical bill and the rationale for opposing it makes no sense to me.

But then it's not unusual for sanity to lose out to ideology, especially on gun laws, especially in Harrisburg. *

E-mail porterj@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5850. For recent columns:

http://go.philly.com/porter

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