Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Target Gun Owners

Most voters don’t spend Friday night tuned into PCN – Pennsylvania’s version of C-SPAN – to watch coverage of small political events. Perhaps that’s what the Democratic gubernatorial candidates were counting on when they debated at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit. Hoping gun owners, especially those registered as Democrats, wouldn’t find out, each of the candidates pledged to support more restrictions on your rights.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato started the series of gun control promises by calling for a statewide so-called “lost and stolen” law. He apparently doesn’t mind that the legislation would change the justice system into one in which gun owners are guilty until proven innocent. Prosecutors could financially ruin gun owners as they try to prove themselves innocent. Onorato continued by pledging to support “child safety locks,” though he declined to explain whether his version of the legislation would mandate the sale of locks to increase gun prices or challenge the ruling of Heller by forcing gun owners to lock their guns at home. Finally, Onorato unveiled his most controversial plan for gun control – ending state preemption in Pennsylvania.

Under Onorato’s dismantling of state authority on gun laws, concealed carry permit holders could be arrested if they visit Philadelphia. Hunters heading to their favorite tree stand in the next county may find that their favorite hunting rifles are banned. Every time a gun owner crosses a city limit, he or she may be in violation of a local ordinance that could lead to arrest and cost them their rights.

Of course, Onorato told reporters at his campaign launch that any perception of a pro-rights record was a “mischaracterization.” I don’t think most gun owners would have realized how much of mischaracterization that really was!

Next, Auditor General Jack Wagner dodged most state policy issues on gun rights – save one. Unfortunately for gun owners, it was a very, very big issue. Wagner, while claiming to support the Second Amendment, stated his support for a ban on semi-automatic rifles. These are not machine guns, but average rifles that gun owners often take into the field for hunting or to the range for competition. He did not explain whether his support for such a ban would include confiscation for those already owned.

Third in line, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty joined Onorato in his support of ending state preemption. In fact, this was actually the priority pledge in his debate response. Clearly, he hasn’t heard that a recent poll showed 56% of Pennsylvanians support preemption of gun laws. His other priority, should he take office, is to restrict sales of guns to only one per month. Collectors would no longer be allowed to by matching sets. The only way to track such sales would also mean the formal creation of a gun owner registry in Pennsylvania.

Finally, Joe Hoeffel, the candidate running farther left than most of the others kept his answer as essentially all of the above. Specifically, he named these priorities: gun sales limits (and presumably the registry needed to track such sales), lost and stolen legislation, mandatory locks (though again without clarification on whether this applies to sales or storage), and the end of state preemption. In addition to the previously discussed issues, Hoeffel also supports a ban on private sales of firearms in Pennsylvania. Selling the rifle that collects dust in the back of the safe to a trusted family member will become a criminal act in Pennsylvania if Joe Hoeffel has his way.

Gun owners, particularly those who are registered as Democrats, need to speak out to these candidates. The primary race is close, and there is no clear winner. Make sure these candidates know that their support of gun control will cost them votes at the ballot box.

Cross posted from

10 thoughts on “Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Target Gun Owners”

  1. At times I complain about Texas not being as gun friendly as many people think (we do not have open carry). However, if any gubernatorial candidate made these kinds of promises in Texas, he would not win. If he made these kind of promises in the primaries (Democrat or Republican) he would not win. Of course, that just means that they aren’t stupid enough to make these kinds of promises publicly. The most likely winner of the Democratic nomination (in Texas) is a MAIG mayor.

  2. Not to be nit-picky, but I’m pretty sure it’s already illegal to hunt with a semi-automatic rifle or handgun in Pennsylvania. Of course, I’m of the opinion that PA should go in the opposite direction, and not only continue to not restrict the sale of semi-autos, but should change the hunting regulations to allow the use of semi-autos there, too.

    Semi-automatic shotguns can be used for hunting in Pennsylvania, but still with the two-round magazine limit.

  3. I forgot about PA’s weird laws. Though in one of the reinstatement versions of the ban, they would have cracked down on semi-auto shotguns much more than before.

    Though the way I worded it, it would still apply for traveling on the way to hunt elsewhere. Stopping in the wrong town for lunch could result in a far worse visit than intended if you are caught with the wrong gun in your truck.

  4. A good friend of mine regularly harvests deer with handguns. Those who say handguns aren’t suitable hunting weapons are misinformed.

    I have to ask–ARE there any pro-gun Democrats running in the PA primary? If so, a list of names would be useful.

    1. Tom Corbett & Sam Rohrer. Both are A rated by NRA. Corbett has done very good work for us as AG, and Rohrer has been a reliable supporter in the House. Either way, gun rights win.

  5. Thanks Bitter. Now which of the Democrat candidates should I throw my vote away on for the primary?

  6. If I hadn’t registered as GOP this time (*grumblegrumblegrumble*), then I would vote for Hoeffel. If he actually won the primary, he would be easiest for any GOP candidate to beat. He’s the kind of guy who you really don’t even want on your side even when you agree with him because he’ll run moderates off. As long as the choices are various shades of anti-gun, might as well go with the one who will scare more voters over to the pro-gun people.

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