Democratic Gov. Candidates Address Gun Control

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.

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