Gun lobby has Pa. in its grip

Investigators collect a gun found at the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of the Victory for the World Baptist Church that occurred after a funeral wrapped upThursday, June 7, 2012, in Stone Mountain, Ga. Police say two people were killed and two others injured. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Investigators collect a gun found at the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of the Victory for the World Baptist Church that occurred after a funeral wrapped upThursday, June 7, 2012, in Stone Mountain, Ga. Police say two people were killed and two others injured. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (AP)
Posted: June 14, 2012

It seems there is no limit to the depths to which some Pennsylvania lawmakers will slither to appease their campaign-cash-distributing masters in the gun lobby.

Because the National Rifle Association has its minions in the legislature on speed dial, it is able to quickly direct them to act whenever there is even a hint of any change in current gun laws.

Such is the case now, with state lawmakers poised to pass a bill that would circumvent the efforts of 30 cities — including Philadelphia, York, Lancaster, Chester, Conshohocken, and Pittsburgh — that have passed ordinances requiring gun owners to notify authorities when a weapon is lost or stolen.

The lost-or-stolen ordinances make sense, and should stand. Police often hit a dead end while investigating a gun crime because an owner failed to report a missing weapon. That becomes less likely with a law requiring missing guns to be reported.

The gun lobby's lackeys say the ordinances infringe on lawful gun owners' rights, which is untrue. The ordinances don't restrict anyone's ability to purchase or own a gun. But they do attempt what Harrisburg won't — to reduce the number of stolen or lost guns used in crimes, and perhaps cut into the lucrative business of "straw" buyers selling or renting guns to criminals.

Most homicides in Philadelphia are committed with guns, many of which were purchased illegally. The city has had a lost-or-stolen gun ordinance for four years, and so far, owners have reported 350 guns missing. None of that, though, matters to legislators intent on ensuring the gun lobby can bully towns trying to better protect their citizens.

Harrisburg's gymnastics on this bill, which allows towns to be sued and charged damages and all legal fees for passing gun laws, is just the latest example of the gun lobby's stranglehold on Pennsylvania.

Legislators took a bill already passed by the Senate, but shelved because it was redundant, deleted the original language, and substituted the attack on lost-or-stolen ordinances. The deception is similar to hiding a porn magazine inside a copy of Time.

The convoluted bait-and-switch allowed the gun lobby to bypass the Senate Judiciary Committee, which might have stopped it in its tracks.

The House is expected to vote on the legislation soon. And the Senate could get it by next week, without having a full hearing or floor debate. This highly unusual procedure is obviously designed to ram the bill through while the legislature is busy with the budget.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), who represents the violence-torn city of Chester, can stop this sham. And he should, unless he wants to be remembered as the chump who let the NRA pull a fast one that left Chester and other Pennsylvania towns less able to protect citizens from gun violence.

Using this underhanded legislative trick to pass such a sweeping bill shouldn't be permitted by someone who legitimately takes credit for having made state government more transparent for voters.

The cloak-and-dagger tactics being employed to move this legislation are almost as dangerous as the bill's intent to weaken communities' efforts to limit the ability of criminals to arm themselves.

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