Delaware County Times | Editorial | November 16, 2011
An interesting phenomenon is currently under way in Washington.
Republicans, traditionally strong proponents of preserving states’ rights, are singing a different tune in regard to legislation proposed by their colleague, U.S. Rep. Clifford Stearns Sr. of Florida.
For years Stearns has advocated for a federal law that would enable residents with licenses from one state to carry concealed weapons to any other state without having to obtain new licenses.
In February he once again introduced his proposal, known as House Resolution 822, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011.
If passed, it would amend federal criminal code and authorize a person with a valid permit “who is not prohibited from possessing, transporting, shipping or receiving a firearm under federal law, to carry a concealed handgun other than a machine gun or a destructive device in another state in accordance with the restrictions of that state.”
In short, it would nullify states’ rights to restrict who within the state should be permitted to carry a concealed weapon. People who obtain gun permits from places like Stearns’ home state of Florida where the process is relatively easy, would be free to carry their concealed weapons in any state.
Such reciprocity already exists among some states including Pennsylvania where the law allows those who have been denied gun licenses or whose gun licenses have been revoked, to carry guns using permits from other states.
When former state Rep. Bryan Lentz, D-161, of Swarthmore, tried to close that loophole in 2010, he discovered at least 3,100 gun permits had been granted to Pennsylvania residents by the Florida Department of Agriculture.
Stearns’ bill has at least 245 co-sponsors, but they aren’t all Republicans. Some are Democrats and, in fact, the bill also bears the name of Democratic U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina.
Proponents of the legislation sanctimoniously claim that they are merely upholding the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the right to bear arms — an amendment written 235 years ago when state militias were needed to defend a fledgling nation.
It is one of the many refrains advanced by critics of any kind of gun control who are also prone to invoke the tired “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” bromide. Obviously they discount the carnage of such incidents as the April 16, 2007 Virginia Polytechnic Institute massacre where 32 students and faculty members died at the hands of one gunman or the Jan. 8, 2011 rampage in Tucson, Ariz. where six people were killed and three wounded by a single shooter.
In Delaware County we witnessed the damage one gun can do on Oct. 30, 1985 when Sylvia Seegrist opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing three and seriously injuring six people.
While supporters of the Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act may dismiss the protests of average citizens, they should be hard-put to ignore those who daily see the consequences of easily accessible guns, namely, law enforcement officials.
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood believes the bill would exacerbate gun violence, “…making the ability to carry and obtain a concealed firearm as easy as it is to buy a cheesesteak or hoagie…”
Glenolden Police Chief Michael Donohue is so disturbed by Stearns’ bill that he documented his concerns in a letter to U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7, of Upper Darby.
“This legislation would create a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to public safety that would undermine our state legislature, endanger police and make it more difficult to prosecute gun traffickers,” wrote Donohue.
But U.S. legislators have never let the concerns of law enforcement officials get in the way of politics as proven when they allowed the 10-year federal assault weapons ban to expire in 2004. Both Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, who had said they opposed the expiration, fell strangely silent when Congress failed to renew the assault weapons ban two months before the election.
We suspect it all came down to the dictates of the Institute for Legislative Action, the powerful lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association of America that, in 2008 alone, reportedly pumped $10 million into political campaigns.
It is a sad commentary when legislators of any party, allow their votes to be bought at the expense of their constituents’ well-being.
Read more: http://www.delcotimes.com/articles/2011/11/16/opinion/doc4ec3356574209466770050.txt