John Baer: Just in time for Thanksgiving, Rendell should veto this turkey

Posted: November 17, 2010

OF COURSE Gov. Rendell will veto the Legislature's efforts to expand gunplay in the city and state by expanding the Castle Doctrine to allow more use of deadly force.

As a former district attorney and mayor in a city with sections where the sound of gunfire is as common as the sound of traffic, for Rendell to do otherwise would be nuts.

As a governor who sought measures to reduce gun violence, such as requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns or limiting gun sales to one a month, doing otherwise would be counterintuitive.

And as a politician who advises other politicians of both parties to "stick to your principles," doing otherwise would be hypocritical.

So, even though the most he would say at a Capitol news conference yesterday was, "I'm going to review it," he'll veto it.

And, with the Legislature wrapping up for the year, there will be no time to override.

That's good because while this turkey passed the House yesterday, 161-35, after passing the Senate last month, 45-4, it is unneeded, inane, dangerous legislation.

I assume that the governor's only hesitation here is that the bill, shamelessly, includes Meagan's Law fixes to better protect kids from predators.

But these are fixes that should have been done earlier in the year, and can be done early next year.

This bill isn't about kids. It's about nothing but political pandering to the National Rifle Association in a rural state where gun control has always meant using both hands.

And it's not even a gun-rights issue.

It's a solution looking for a problem: Castle Doctrine, the right to defend one's home (castle) with deadly force already exists.

The legislation just passed extends it to any place any person has a legal right to be, which, as you might imagine, presents opportunity to reopen the Wild, Wild West.

The city's ERs are busy enough, and there are too many people who do not need another reason or excuse to fire when ready.

The statewide district attorneys' association, representing those in the front lines of law enforcement, opposed the bill.

The association said that expanding the law endangers lives by promoting a "shoot-first" environment, and also hands defense attorneys a new weapon in getting bad-guy shooters off the hook because they felt personally threatened.

The association's president, Dauphin County D.A. Ed Marsico, a Republican, called the bill "a defense attorney's dream."

I mean, ask yourself-on matters of crime and violence prevention, whom do you trust more, state lawmakers (and remember their experience is in committing crimes) or state district attorneys?

This unnecessary supposed remedy for I don't-even-know- what already has taken up more time than it's worth.

It should go away and not return.

I'm certain the NRA and its bipartisan toadies take solace in the fact that Gov.-Elect Tom Corbett has said he would sign Castle Doctrine expansion.

And surely the measure will show up again early next year on the calendars of the new Legislature.

But the incoming governor and the new Legislature face a full platter of real issues that range from dealing with a projected $4 billion state budget deficit to fulfilling the promises Republican Corbett made as a candidate.

Tell me where on the list of Pennsylvania's needs does expanding someone's right to use deadly force fall?

Above cutting the cost of government without harming genuinely valuable social services?

Above instituting political and legislative reforms to curb a capital culture marked by greed and self-service?

Above expanding the state's economy to provide more jobs?

Hardly.

Much has been pledged. Much needs to be done. And more gunplay just shouldn't be an item on anybody's to-do list.

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/baer.

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