Unlike many states, Pennsylvania gun owners actually have a method to send a direct message to the judicial branch about their views on how judges might be doing at either upholding or uprooting our rights to keep and bear arms.
Pennsylvania does a range of judicial elections – outright partisan competitive elections at some levels and during some years, and then retention elections (simple, is this person doing a good enough job to remain on the bench vote) for some levels of the court. There are perks and drawbacks to such a system, but it is our system. That means we gun owners should participate.
Tomorrow is Election Day, and the only offices on the ballot are local, county, and judicial. It means that turnout will be ridiculously low. Gun owners need to be concerned since we just had an elected judge make a completely new interpretation of our concealed carry laws that made any Pennsylvania resident carrying on an out-of-state license a criminal.
In fact, two Supreme Court justices are up for a retention vote tomorrow. One of them, Chief Justice Ron Castille, wrote the opinion that has opened the door to redefine Pennsylvania’s self-defense standard from one which requires the state to disprove a claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, to one where the defendant has to prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. This would essentially shift the burden from the state to the defendant. If gun owners think this is a bad idea, then vote against retention.
Gun owners aren’t the only interest group that should be looking more to the courts as voters. A Tea Party group is also encouraging voters to vote against retention of both justices up tomorrow. Whatever you think about their views on whatever it is that’s irking them is irrelevant, what it presents is an opportunity to see that Castille is especially weak.
This isn’t the only time in recent months that gun owners have needed to wake up to judicial elections. In Erie, there’s a low level judge who just blatantly ignored the state’s preemption law. This is a situation that can easily be solved at the ballot box, and the message will spread to other judges.
Unfortunately, of all the bad rulings issued for gun owners lately, Chief Justice Castille is the only one facing an immediate election. However, he can be sent home. We should take the opportunity to help him enjoy his retirement a little earlier than he expected. (He actually faces mandatory retirement next year, so it’s pretty pointless to keep him on the court. Unfortunately, he is fighting that mandatory retirement. Though he can’t fight a voter-mandated retirement.)
6 Responses to “Sending a Message to the Judiciary”
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