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PA Supreme Court Usurps Legislative Prerogative

This isn’t directly a gun issue, but for those Pennsylvanians that may not have hard, the PA Supreme Court, controlled now by Democrats because our voters penchant for ticket splitting,  decided to declare our Congressional districts unconstitutional under the Pennsylvania Constitution. On what grounds? We have no idea. Because the Court released the order to the legislature and governor to act in the next few weeks, or else the Court will draw new districts for them. Act how? They can’t know. Because there’s no opinion and no guidelines. The legislature has to have a plan to the Governor by February 9th. The Governor and the legislature have to have a final plan submitted to the Court by February 15th. Keep in mind the legislature is under GOP control and the Governor is a Dem. The Court knows this is an impossible deadline. They intend to usurp the process. They will act as a legislature. They are now a lawless body.

What’s worse? There’s no clear federal question to get the US Supreme Court to intervene. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the final arbiter on Pennsylvania law and the Pennsylvania Constitution, absent a federal question.

I struggle to even find where in the Pennsylvania Constitution it mentions Congressional Districts. It prescribes how state House and Senate districts are to be drawn. Under what grounds could this possibly be based? I don’t know. There’s no opinion.

Now, we’d have an easy federal question here, because there is a body drawing federal congressional districts, and that body is not the Pennsylvania legislature. But back 2015 the Supreme Court decided Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, which held that it was just fine and dandy for the legislature to delegate it’s power under the federal constitution to draw districts to an entity not itself (commission, or to referendum, etc). However in this case, the legislature delegated nothing. The PA Supreme Court has taken this power upon itself. So I still think we may have a federal issue to raise with the Elections Clause. [UPDATE: Looking more at the details of  how it happen in Arizona, it looks like the commission was set up by the ballot. So the voters took away deciding districts from the legislature, not the legislature delegating it. Either way, I think the case was wrongly decided. It’s long been time to make the non-delegation doctrine great again.]

Also, and this is probably more a stretch, even though it should not be: I did not elect the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to act as my legislature and draw my Congressional Districts. I am guaranteed the right to a republican form of government under the federal constitution. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court acting as my legislature violates that guarantee.

To me this is a torches and pitchforks issue. In the matter of redistricting, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have declared themselves dictators. Never again will I vote for or to retain a Democrat on the Supreme Court, despite having done so in the past. I am not a mindless partisan, and mostly hate the Republican Party. I appreciate Democratic Justice Baer, who concurred with the finding that the districts were unconstitutional, but found the remedy too radical. He did the right thing. But your party did the wrong thing, and a blatantly partisan wrong thing. It’s such a wrong thing, the dissent to the remedy can’t fix it for me.

This is just too much of an insult to the voters in this Commonwealth.

Picking a Gun Fight

Governor Wolf may not have been expecting a fight over guns, but he sure as hell got one. There is a little known (outside of gun circles) provision in Pennsylvania law that when a state of emergency is declared, the only people who become eligible to possess firearms “on the public streets” are military, police, and people who have a License to Carry Firearms.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has been hit particularly hard by opioid addiction. So naturally things will tend to follow the progression of politicians and pearl clutchers everywhere: this is a crisis of epic proportion, so Something Must Be Done. Declaring a State of Emergency over the opiods is Something, so therefore it Must Be Done.

There’s an effort growing to change the state of emergency law to remove the firearms ban. This would be a good idea. And since I believe the Governor did not intend to pick a fight on this issue, we might have a reasonable shot at getting him to sign it. It will also be interesting to see the gun control groups fight this, because of course having complex laws in place no one knows about means more people like you and me in prison, where no doubt many of them believe we belong.

After Action Report in a Philly Ring County

Someone who knows I’m a registered Republican even though I’m more libertarian than they really like and not enough party cheerleader. But a local woman posted something about Bucks County GOP losses this morning that made me think there was room for some serious observations about things both large and small local and county candidates could have done to improve their odds in an opposition party wave year – a factor that was completely predictable.

Of course, I should have known better than to assume anyone was interested in talking about things they saw that worked well for candidates and missed opportunities for others. People would rather scream “SHAME!” than actually think about things they could help do for their candidates of choice in next year’s elections.

I guess I’m sharing an edited version here since I hope that someone might be willing to be inspired by some of these thoughts and ultimately make a positive impact for gun rights.

Locally, I don’t think most of the GOP candidates prepared to run in what is, historically, going to be a year that favors the opposite party. There were some small things I noticed that probably made a difference, and then some big concepts, too.

For most of the county-level offices, other than glossy mailers that immediately go into the recycling bin, all I ever saw were the generic blue signs that had lots of last names with no visible office listed. The offices were listed on the signs, but nearly impossible to read in much smaller print squeezed between 3-5 last names of various GOP candidates on plain blue backgrounds. Even the glossy mailers I got a look at as they fell into the trash all had many candidates for different offices so that they all blended together.

In a specific an example, for sheriff, I knew a guy named Milt Warrell was on the ticket because his signs were big, bold, clear, and not typical campaign colors. They were bright yellow and black. If it weren’t for the fact that I knew the GOP incumbent had a different name, then I would not have know Milt was a Democrat or anything else. But, unlike the GOP candidate, I knew he was running for sheriff. Milt’s visible campaigning just showed him being something different and that he was clearly running for that office.

I get that local campaigns don’t have major resources to spend, and that’s why they try to campaign together. However, it’s not acceptable to have literally no individual efforts. First of all, and this is pretty important in a purple-blue state for Republicans, you need to accommodate the ticket splitters. There have been times when I’ll take a sign for one candidate, but leave the others behind because I’m not on board with them. So why should the guy or gal I like miss out?

On the state level, Sallie Munday, a candidate for our state Supreme Court, clearly benefitted from split ticket voting given the spread she put up statewide. As much as I hate to admit it, I do think part of it was because she is a woman. (There were several races where GOP women beat Dem men by percentages that aren’t likely explained by much more than they won the women’s vote because they are women.) But I think the significant vote spread was also because she was willing to run very targeted social media ads that don’t cost a ridiculous amount of money. Even before I had my NRA orange mailer on her endorsed candidacy, I was getting ads for her on the issues I clearly follow on Facebook. I knew her name well before Election Day, before the NRA ever sent anything about her, and on issues I care about.

On a side note, what was up with NRA PVF having multiple statewide-endorsed candidates in Pennsylvania and then leaving them off of their website? We had to go through the effort to scan in the mailer to share with Sebastian’s gun club. It would have been easier to point to a public webpage like we could with New Jersey.

Back to the Pennsylvania state races… Christine Fizzano Cannon was also doing some ads, though not as targeted as Munday’s, but enough that I knew she was a ballot for something. However, her good move was to do several “alert” style ads starting around 11:00am on Election Day over the fact that Philadelphia purposefully printed her name incorrectly on about half of their voting machines. I don’t know if she ran those sponsored posts statewide, but every time I opened Facebook yesterday, I saw one here in a ring county. That plays very well into the narrative most suburbanites and “T” people have that Philly is corrupt. That’s hours of sending a message out there that will motivate many who may have been uninspired to make sure and hit the voting booth on the way home. Not to mention, the specific reason her name was chopped in Philly could have caused some split voting tickets because it’s something unique to women who don’t give up their maiden names, but also use their husband’s names. Philly decided not to recognize her “2nd” last name on half of their machines. That’s not something most men would face, and women know it. She beat out a Democratic woman, and I suspect that if we could get the timing of those votes cast for her, there was an uptick after she got the word out about Philly screwing her over.

There is one exception to the social media spending that didn’t win in a race I was watching closely, and that’s a local supervisor candidate. He started spending on Facebook ads right before the election, but they weren’t targeted (beyond location) and they were reproductions of those glossy mailers that go straight into trash. They didn’t tell me anything about him. It’s like someone told him to spend something online, but he didn’t know about any of the power to really target it. And since guns have come up as a local issue, he could have done something. I’m sure that’s true for a variety of other local issues that he didn’t really hit on.

I don’t think that online ad spending is the ticket to success, but I do think that individual campaigns that at least tried to talk about issues voters care about won out here over generic 3-5 candidate signs that barely fit the office names on there. It was expected to be an opposition party wave year, and they didn’t run like it at all here in Bucks County.

I also won’t ignore that Trump was a factor, even though federal races weren’t on the ticket here. But that isn’t a surprise since this is typically the result when one party takes the White House the previous year. One way to both run against what many find off-putting about Trump without actually running against him and his policies is to make yourself really likable. I see a huge missed opportunity with one relatively small office in Pennsylvania that could really spawn a lot of fun online ad themes, and that’s Prothonotary. I still can’t say it. I still don’t fully understand what they do (even though I believe some of it is genealogically-related), and I can assure you that other regular and irregular voters are in the same boat. Surely someone in a candidate’s circle of friends or family could help draft a series of funny videos around that theme. Run them online for not much money, and that could have been one more county office to hold onto just by running on a platform of being a likable person with a sense of humor.

There’s also the mobilization issue. How many GOP-leaning voters were put off by a lack of enthusiasm, a dislike of driving in dark and rain, and heavy rain? In an aging state like Pennsylvania, probably quite a few. Was there an effort to reach out to older voters who otherwise would have gone to vote? I don’t know. I know that some races were close enough that everything should be on the table as proposals to GOTV for the county GOP. I also know enough to know that they won’t do it here. Sad.

Good News in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has denied appeal on FOAC et al. v. Lower Merion Township, basically upholding the ruling in Commonwealth Court that their ordinance banning firearms and discharge in township parks was illegal.

Our current preemption law usually works when we can take these ordinances to court, but getting them there is difficult.

Also from Josh Prince: “It is time for the citizens of Pennsylvania to stop paying millions of dollars, each year, for a broken and duplicative system, when the FBI offer NICS to us for free.” PICS is awful. At some point I’d like to see a bill in Congress to eliminate POC states. That way there’s only one entity to keep an eye on. POC state agencies have gotten away with a lot worse malfeasance than the FBI, and the FBI does a much better job with uptime on NICS than the PSP does with PICS, which is very outage prone for as much as it’s costing taxpayers.

Despite Long Guns Being Rarely Used in Crimes …

… and despite Pennsylvania’s ban on transfers or loans of firearms without going through an FFL or Sheriff not doing hardly a think to put a dent in Philadelphia’s violence crime rate, some lawmakers want to expand the ban on transfers or loans to long guns.

This has been going around in rightly circles. It’s interesting to see some of the outlets making hay of this given that Santora is still willing to vote the right way on abortion.

What Happens When There’s no Sheriff?

Apparently Blair County, PA lost its Sheriff, and due to a lack of someone to sign LTCs, they just stopped issuing them. A judge has authorized the Chief Deputy to act in the Sheriff’s stead until a replacement can be confirmed. It looks, in this case, like the seat has only been vacated since April 9th, and Sheriffs have 45 days by statute to issue.

This kind of licensing scheme would never be allowed in any other context. There’s a movement now to let people vote without first having to register to do so. If we ever get judges willing to take the Second Amendment seriously, as opposed to judges who are fine with it being a second-class right, this kind of thing is what will eventually take down licensing regimes.

Firearms Preemption Update

Passed the Senate by a veto-proof margin. That’s not something that happens often in this state! If we can do that well in the House, we may be able to get this, despite the Dem governor. The GOP currently has a comfortable majority in the House, and pro-gun Dems are not yet extinct in this state. This might be doable!

Not a bad idea to call your senator and thank them. Shows we’re paying attention.

Toomey Cozy With Gun Control Crowd

We spent years trying to get rid of Arlen Spector, and now Pat Toomey being Arlen reborn is probably a best case scenario for guns:

The big question now is whether we’ve lost Toomey for good on the gun issue, or whether he’s just going to play both sides like his predecessor did. If Toomey is intent on being anti-gun, I can have a Democrat do that job just as well as a Republican. Just sayin, Pat.

“Guns in America” Forum

Tomorrow at Central Penn College in Summerdale, PA there will be a forum featuring David Keene, former NRA President, and Shira Goodman, Executive Director of CeaseFire PA. It runs from 7-8PM.

Keene has generally been a great spokesman for the issue. If anyone in the area wishes to attend, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. It’s a bit of a hike for me.

Important Ruling From PA Superior Court

The en banc Superior Court, in Commonwealth v. Goslin, has ruled in favor of the defendant without dissent:

We disagree with the trial court’s conclusion that the language of Section 912(c) is vague.

Rather, we conclude that, in order to ascertain the meaning of Section 912(c), we need not look beyond its plain language. The plain meaning of Section 912(c) provides two separate defenses: possessing and using a weapon on school property “in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity” as well as possessing “for other lawful purpose.” (emphasis added, as Chief Counsel Prince specifically argued this exact construction and noted the different verbs utilized related to the different provisions)

The Court concludes:

Although we are concerned about individuals possessing weapons on school property, we are bound by the broad defense that the legislature has provided defendants in such cases.

Josh Prince is raising money for legal defenses, as the case is headed back to lower court for a re-trial. I wouldn’t exactly go carrying firearms on school grounds because of this ruling, but it seems pretty clear the legislature intended to supply a broad defense for people engaged in legal activity. We now have the second-highest court in the Commonwealth recognizing that.

UPDATE: More discussion here. It looks like the DA is dropping the charges rather than going through with a re-trial. Josh Prince also points out that this only creates an affirmative defense. The DA can still charge you.

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