Po­lit­i­cal split on pro­posed gun laws on full dis­play

Gov. Wolf says com­mit­tee chair­man “blockad­ing" ef­fec­tive pro­pos­als

The Morning Call - - NATION / STATE - By Ford Turner Morn­ing Call reporter Ford Turner can be reached at 717-7837305 or [email protected]

The deep po­lit­i­cal di­vide in the Penn­syl­va­nia Leg­is­la­ture on po­ten­tial gun laws was on full dis­play Tues­day as House mem­bers traded crit­i­cisms and come­backs on a slew of pro­pos­als.

At one point dur­ing the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee meet­ing, Repub­li­can Rep. Matthew Dowl­ing of Fayette County de­scribed his sup­port of a bill to re­peal lan­guage in ex­ist­ing state law that Dowl­ing said lim­ited the Se­cond Amend­ment rights of “law abid­ing cit­i­zens.”

Re­act­ing to Dowl­ing’s bill, Demo­crat Tim Briggs of Mont­gomery County said the only way it would be a solution was “if it is a zom­bie apoc­a­lypse.”

At least 11 bills were voted through the com­mit­tee, most in­volv­ing firearms and most on split votes that were largely party line. They now will be sub­ject to ac­tion by the full House.

In a state­ment is­sued af­ter the meet­ing, Gov. Tom Wolf vowed to veto one of the ap­proved mea­sures, crafted by Perry County Repub­li­can Rep. Mark Keller.

It was in­tended to de­ter mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from pass­ing gun­re­lated or­di­nances that might be over­turned in court.

A writ­ten de­scrip­tion said it would work by mak­ing those who file suc­cess­ful law­suits against such an or­di­nance en­ti­tled to re­im­burse­ment from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

In his state­ment, Wolf said the bill “em­pow­ers out-of-state spe­cial in­ter­est groups to sue and take tax­payer dol­lars from our com­mu­ni­ties sim­ply for try­ing to make their neigh­bor­hoods safer.”

Wolf also said Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rob Kauff­man of Franklin County was “blockad­ing” what Wolf de­scribed as prac­ti­cal and pub­licly ac­cepted anti-gun vi­o­lence mea­sures.

Briggs voiced the same sen­ti­ment near the start of the meet­ing. He said, “We are ig­nor­ing a lot of bills that the pub­lic wants us to be tackling.”

The ac­tions came af­ter law­mak­ers re­turned to Har­ris­burg fol­low­ing a break of more than two months.

Dur­ing that time, mass and in­di­vid­ual shoot­ings re­peat­edly got head­lines.

They in­cluded the gun killings of 22 peo­ple in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3 and nine peo­ple in Day­ton, Ohio, the fol­low­ing day.

At least five po­lice of­fi­cers were shot soon af­ter that on a sin­gle day in Philadel­phia, and Al­len­town has had a to­tal of 33 peo­ple shot since June 1.

A three-bill pack­age that passed the com­mit­tee on Tues­day came from Repub­li­can Todd Stephens of Mont­gomery County.

Stephens de­scribed it as a “very lim­ited and nar­row” mea­sure re­lated to manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences for gun-re­lated crimes.

A writ­ten de­scrip­tion of the bill said it con­tained con­sti­tu­tional pro­ce­dures that state Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court found lack­ing sev­eral years ago when they struck down Penn­syl­va­nia manda­tory-min­i­mum laws.

Demo­crat Rep. Sum­mer Lee of Al­legheny County said manda­tory min­i­mums don’t work. Demo­crat Christo­pher Rabb of Philadel­phia said the bill “ac­tu­ally de­stroys those com­mu­ni­ties that are al­ready on the fringes,” and Demo­crat Mike Za­bel of Delaware County said it was “bad pol­icy.”

Stephens said the in­tent of his bill was to give ev­ery vi­o­lent crim­i­nal who uses a gun fiveyear sen­tence.

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