This article by Monica Yant Kenny in the Philadelphia Inqurer attacks Pennsylvania House Speaker Dennis O’Brien for voting against the “Lost & Stolen” bill.Â I will take this one piece by piece:
It was hardly a surprise that the Pennsylvania House shot down last week’s proposal to curb illegal gun trafficking, but when the votes were tallied, I was a bit baffled.
It would curb illegal gun trafficking?Â Can you show evidence?Â Or is that just what Joe Grace told you?
Scads of suburban Republicans stood up to their party and the National Rifle Association by supporting the plan to require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons. This even though straw buying and the bloodshed that illegal guns cause is often derided as an “urban” problem.
Of course, the number of Democrats that voted against this measure exceeds the number of Republican reps that voted for it, but we won’t let facts get in the way here.
But House Speaker Dennis O’Brien, a city guy with constituents in the line of fire, voted against a small step for gun sanity.
Gun sanity?Â Maybe they need some thorazine.
In saying no, O’Brien stood strangely alone. Every other Philadelphia lawmaker – Democrat and Republican – voted yes.
Even pols who doubted the proposal’s power to curb gun violence opted to give it a chance.
“We have a big enough problem in Philly,” said Republican John Taylor, “that I’ll try anything.”
So we’ve basically shown that the existing laws against straw purchasers are not being enforced.Â We’ve shown that these laws can’t actually be used against a criminal with a gun, because that would be self-incrimination, a violation of the criminal’s fifth amendment rights.Â Yet Ms. Kenny wants us to do something, even if it’ll end up getting innocent people in trouble with the law.
Sorry, Denny, but the really glaring thing is how anyone could be against requiring owners of a product that can take a life to report its loss or theft just as they would any other item of value.
You’d call the cops if your car was stolen, wouldn’t you? You’d file a report if the wife misplaced her wedding ring. Why not expect the same if a Glock goes missing?
A car is a bit easier to notice missing than a gun, and I would note that I would report a stolen gun, but we’re not talking about encouraging people to do the right thing, we’re talking about putting them in jail if they don’t do the right thing.Â We don’t do that with any other product.Â And no, if my wife misplaced her wedding ring, I wouldn’t call the police.Â If it wasn’t stolen, I’m pretty sure they’d be pissed.
O’Brien and I haven’t talked since we had words at a crime forum last year, but to his credit he e-mailed a detailed 763-word response explaining his decision.
“While it may have been politically expedient to ‘go with the crowd’ on this one,” O’Brien wrote, “that has never been my style.”
To him, making it a crime not to report a crime would “cast an overbroad net” ensnaring the innocent.
That, he couldn’t stomach.
I’m going to ask that everyone who lives in Pennsylvania to please send Dennis O’Brein a letter of thanks.Â He went out on a limb for us in a big way, and the City’s media machine is ripping him apart, and I have no doubt that he’s going to be targeted by CeaseFire PA in the next election.Â He could have easily voted for this, knowing it still wouldn’t have the votes to pass, but he stuck with us, he stuck to principle, and that’s something you don’t see in politicians very often these days.
Also making the speaker a little sick? That gun-control groups like CeaseFirePA for the first time exercised as much muscle as the NRA.
“The group’s real goal was not to get a solution, but merely to get a vote,” O’Brien wrote. “After the amendment was rejected, they declared a victory in the simple fact of getting a recorded vote.”
Well, why shouldn’t the advocates crow? In Pennsylvania, when it comes to gun control, forcing officials to take a stand is success.
Defeating even a modest anti-gun measure 75 to 128 is exercising as much muscle as the NRA?Â Is she on crack?Â You don’t get to claim victory just because you had a vote, unless you win, or come close enough to winning to encourage you to try again next year.Â The fact is they lost on this vote, and couldn’t prevent several pro-gun measures from being attached.
Meaning if the lost-and-stolen effort is really about scaring people out of becoming straw buyers, then target them, not the little old lady who forgets to tell the cops she gave Grandpa’s gun to her son.
Except there’s no legal way to distinguish between the criminal and the little old lady.Â You’re asking us to rely on prosecutorial discretion, and that’s never been something I’ve been willing to hang my hat on.Â There is no way this law won’t sweep up the innocent with the guilty, even in North Philly.Â They way to discourage straw purchasers is to punish people for it using the existing law.Â That’s not happening right now.Â There was not a single prosecution for straw purchasing until the PA Attorney General came in and started busting these losers.Â It makes no sense to beg for more laws when you’re plea bargaining away the laws that are already there.
After many revisions – and polls showing 100 percent of Harper’s constituents support the idea – she signed on, comforted by the fact that gun owners would have to be cited repeatedly to face serious punishment.
“If you forget to report your gun lost or stolen three times, you are a felon,” she said. “That doesn’t happen to Grandma.”
But O’Brien remained unmoved.
Sorry, but it’s a misdemeanor of the first degree on second violation, which can get you more than a year in jail.Â That’s what I would classify as “serious”.Â Someone who has more than one firearm stolen, would be looking at two counts under this law.Â Since many gun owners have more than one, this law could get people in serious trouble if they are unaware of the duty it imposes.Â One wonders how so many people, who would be appalled at lowering the state’s burden for prosecution of other crimes, suddenly are all for it when gun owners are involved.