Irresponsible Stalemating: When will the Legislature Learn?

People kill people, oftentimes with guns.

Before I dive into this topic, I need to make an important disclaimer. As a responsible person, I believe I have the right to own a gun. In fact, I think all responsible individuals have the same right. I know some believe the second Amendment is ambiguous and meant for a frontier nation. But, all of the Amendments are relatively ambiguous and I do not think time changes rights. I would be like saying: since we all have computers and can blog, freedom of the press is not important anymore. I do not want to go down that road.

Hand guns are not my preference; I like a nice over-under Italian-made shot gun. The craftsmanship is fantastic and holding one makes me say . . . "I could not even put a model airplane together." But, knowing I cannot afford one, when I buy one, I will settle for something else. I have hunters in my family and support their pastime-of-choice. I enjoy skeet-shooting. I do these things responsibly. I have attended classes to learn how to handle firearms responsibly to both avoid a Dick Cheney scenario and to understand the gravity and power of a firearm.

I know that if I purchased a gun, I would not sell it to anyone one, particularly a stranger and that I would certainly not use it for criminal activity. It would practice at hitting a moving clay disk flying in the air, which by the way I'm not terribly bad at. I also know that if I were able to keep in it a house it would have a trigger lock, a safe and I would keep no rounds in the home (that last precaution is part of the deal I am trying to broker with my soon-to-be wife).

Based upon the above, when speaking on the issue of gun control it is very important for me to stress, there is a difference between responsible gun ownership and the use of firearms by criminals. Likewise, there is a difference between responsible gun legislation and irresponsible stalemating, which is currently the trend in Harrisburg. I know there are powerful groups like the NRA looking to keep the status quo. Of course they are powerful, they have guns and money. But, that does not matter to me. Why? Because this week, while I was writing about cheese steaks and discrimination, in South Philadelphia a 4 year old girl was shot in the leg. She was, obviously at the wrong place (her street) at the wrong time (when groups of thugs decided to shoot at each other). Because too many families of police officers have buried their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons or daughters when their loved ones worked to make the community safer. Also, too many young Philadelphians die every year as a result of gun violence. Last, Philadelphia is on the verge of losing its major civic advances in the last decade to crime and fear. Handguns are a real problem.

Why do we have such stalemating? It is a combination of factors. There is an anti-Philadelphia bias that makes helping Philadelphia a bad thing. Oddly enough, the resurgence of Philadelphia means only good things for this fair, industrial aged state. I cannot fathom why the bias exists when the contribution of Philadelphia to the state economy and culture is greater than the remaining large towns, combined. Perhaps it is a touch of jealousy.

More tangibly, however, there are two problems contributing to this irresponsible stalemating. First, irresponsible legislators lead to irresponsible stalemating. These legislators are Philadelphia’s own Representatives Perzel and O’Brien. Neither will lift a finger to help end this hand-gun crisis. Perzel is the House Majority Leader with enormous political capital. Instead of spending some of it on Philadelphians, he is holding onto it for rural interests. O’Brien may be worse. He is the chair of the Judiciary Committee and is preventing a vote on a hand gun bill that would limit purchases to one hand gun a month. The bill, House Bill 871, which would aim at stopping straw purchases, was referred to O’Brien’s committee on March 14, 2005. It has languished there ever since.

What makes these two Representatives so irresponsible is that a significant amount of their constituency is police officers who live in their district. Do they not realize that they share responsibility for the lives of police officers? For the fear police families encounter every time their loved ones go to work? Or, for the fact that children could go without their mothers and fathers because of special interests? I believe they do and that they just do not care. The Philadelphia Police Department, by the way, has endorsed House Bill 871. Police-men and women have difficult and scary jobs, which should not be made more difficult and scary by irresponsible legislators, especially their own irresponsible legislators.

Second, the Gun Lobby shares a significant amount of blame. Take the NRA, for instance. As an organization dedicated to responsible gun ownership, they should be encouraging the same. There are very few people in this nation who want to absolutely take all guns away from everyone; they are an extreme minority (no offense). The NRA and other related groups should not treat the “gun-control” lobby like they all espouse the same thing. We want what they want, responsible gun ownership and handguns out of the reach of criminals.

Based upon the above, I am starting a new lobby. I am changing the debate. I am starting the Responsible Gun Ownership Lobby! Why? Because I think it will move the ball. The Responsible Gun Ownership Lobby (the "RGOL") is aimed at advocating legislation that is directed at, guess what, punishing irresponsible gun ownership. You see, no rights are absolute, speech, choice, property. Guns are no different. When people abuse the right to own a gun, they undermine a basic assumption in our Constitution, that guns will not be used for crimes or to hurt innocent people!

Some might say it is simply a name change. That is incorrect. It is a change of context. Too often these debates go no where. But, this new phrasing puts the pressure on people like Perzel and O’Brien and groups like the NRA. For instance, if the NRA supports the proposed legislation, they are abiding by their creed. If they do not, then it calls them out as hypocrites. In addition, are guys like Perzel and O’Brien honestly going to say they do not support responsible gun ownership? No. Of course not. They would be crazy.

House Bill 871 is vitally important. It is needed to combat crime and irresponsible gun ownership. There are exceptions for gun dealers and collectors, which is very reasonable. In fact, the Bill is drafted very well and is aimed at broad consensus. But, it is one step. I have some of my own suggestions, but want to engage more people. Thus, I welcome any suggestions or comments. I know many want to see no guns out there at all. But, we must weigh the odds of that ever happening with the costs of doing nothing. Perhaps we can go to Perzel and O’Brien’s offices and politely, with a loud bull-horn, tell them how we (I) feel.

House Bill 871 can be viewed at:
http://www2.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/BI/BT/2005/0/HB0871P0994.pdf

Guns don't kill people, people kill people

People will kill others whether or not guns are available. Take away the guns, they will use knives or other implements. There is more than one way to skin a cat (unpolitically correct manner of speaking). Taking the responsible citizen's right to keep and bear arms is not the answer. Thanks for posting your convincing arguement.

uh huh

Sorry, but, if there were not guns on the street, Philly would not have as many deaths as it does each year, period. 300 plus people would not be killed with knives. Little kids would not be caught in baseball bat crossfire. Technology matters.

Find me the place where I sai

Find me the place where I said we should take the "responsible citizen's" right to keep and bear arms. You can look all you want, I will assure you, it is no where in there.

when was the last time

...you heard of a kid accidentally blowing his head off with a knife? or uninvolved bystanders being killed by a piece of a knife bouncing off the intended victim and flying through their living room? honestly, people will attack and even kill each other no matter what we do, but the lethal seriousness of guns is unmatched. knife fights send everybody to the hospital; gun fights send everybody to the morgue. and that's before you factor in third parties, kids, the high price of "dissing" somebody accidentally, or of getting depressed (suicide by gun is completely disproportionate to any other form)...

you can't leave guns unregulated. and we need to do a better job.
acm

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
— Margaret Mead

Curious, bidols

I couldn't quite figure out if you were being sarcastic or not in your comment, but I have some questions for you.

Do you consider unlimited straw purchases of guns to be part of "responsible citizen's rights" to keep and bear arms? Do you think that a limit of one gun purchase a month would be "responsible?" If so, then I guess you would support the legislation currently being prevented from coming to a vote.

Further, do you think that it is "responsible" for 0'Brien to help prevent the legislation from being brought to a vote despite the fact that a majority of his consituents supports Phildelphians having the right to create their own gun purchase legislation?

Ryan Howard

Have you seen the chips fly when Ryan Howard breaks his bats? That stuff can be deadly!

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