Inquirer Editorial: Gunslinger law

Posted: April 15, 2011

Once more, the allure of the Wild West is exerting an irresistible pull on Harrisburg. In a dangerous policy decision, the state Senate and House have revived legislation wisely vetoed by former Gov. Edward G. Rendell that would expand gun owners' rights to blast away any time they feel threatened.

By extending the "castle doctrine," which gives armed homeowners the right to shoot an intruder, lawmakers are risking deadly confrontations in any public setting. More road-rage incidents could prove lethal, with armed motorists claiming they were legally defending themselves against a perceived threat.

Criminals caught up in drug-related gun battles could mount a defense under the castle doctrine, state prosecutors have said.

At the same time, there's no evidence of a compelling reason to let armed citizens draw their weapons in public. As Rendell said, the measure embraces a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality. It poses particular risks in heavily populated city and suburban communities.

In a state that had refused to surrender policymaking to the National Rifle Association, majority Republican leaders in the Senate should pay a political price in their suburban-Philadelphia districts. The House vote Tuesday was just as lopsided in its support by suburban lawmakers.

Gov. Corbett may be an NRA devotee, but he owes it to all Pennsylvanians to veto this measure that will threaten public safety as much as this expansion of the castle doctrine does.

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