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State of Pennsylvania Gun Rights in 2010

independencehallIn the spirit of the State of the Union, we would like to be able to declare that the state of gun rights in Pennsylvania is strong.  While that is generally true, 2010 will be a year of major changes in the gun rights world, and we must work hard to make sure those changes are in our favor.

Judicial Battles
In 2010, we will find out whether the Supreme Court is willing to expand the landmark Heller decision to apply to states. In the current state, there is an acknowledged individual right to arms by the federal government. However, states and municipalities do not currently have to honor that right. The case to change that is McDonald v. Chicago, a challenge brought by the same attorney who won Heller to the city of Chicago’s handgun ban.

For Pennsylvania residents, McDonald is likely to bring very little tangible change to the state of our gun rights. Our state constitution has a strong individual right to arms, so we have not had to wait on the federal courts to tell our state and local governments to honor our rights. This case will most directly impact states without state protections for the right to bear arms or states whose judicial systems have effectively eroded those that may have existed.

The majority of briefs for the pro-gun side have already been filed and can be found on Alan Gura’s website. Chicago asked for an extension of their deadline, originally scheduled for mid-December. It was partially granted and they submitted their brief just before New Year’s Eve. This means that Gura will file a response near the end of January before the hearing occurs on March 2. If the timing of the Heller case is any indication – and the possible scope of the decision to stem beyond gun rights – then we may not see an opinion handed down until the end of June. Landmark cases tend to be held the longest, and Heller was the last case released during the Supreme Court’s term in 2008.

Local Battles
We have covered Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-gun group extensively on PAGunRights.com. So far, these mayors have called Pennsylvania’s ~600,000 concealed carry holders criminals, violated state laws on passing local gun control, and called on Congress to turn down all pro-gun bills. But shortly after Christmas, a document the mayors sent to President Obama & various agencies was released online. Bloomberg & his mayoral buddies in Pennsylvania have been trying to keep this blueprint for gun control under wraps by refusing to release it anywhere that gun owners could easily find it. Through a FOIA request & a cooperative agency, their real plan has been revealed and it is not at all good for gun owners.

Mayors working with Bloomberg have demanded the Obama Administration enact the following changes, as summarized at the link above:

  • Require REAL ID compliant identification for all gun purchasers. Those in non-complying states, which are many, will no longer be permitted to buy firearms.
  • Recommends a ban on the importation of all “non-sporting” firearms and ammunition, and specifically calls for banning the FN Five-Seven. Cheap imported rounds of military caliber may become a thing of the past.  Since MAIG isn’t all that specific on what would be sporting or non-sporting, Glocks could even be at risk.
  • Calls for keeping records for people who get a NICS default proceed, which means your background check has not “cleared” but you went through the required three day waiting period. These records can be kept for up to 20 years, in the case of someone who’s name matches someone on the “terror watch” list and six months ordinarily. Default proceeds can happen if NICS has incomplete records, or the system is down for a protracted period of time.
  • Calls for more enforcement of gun shows using the Richmond model. The techniques used at the Richmond gun shows were bad enough that Congress held hearings about the methods, and demanding ATF put a stop to them. They actually recommend rescinding a number of the changes made to prevent these abuses.
  • Recommends ways for the administration to exploit loopholes in Tiahrt to publish information on “problematic” gun dealers (so they can be sued by New York City, no doubt). Having a lot of traces doesn’t necessarily mean a dealer is breaking the law.
  • Lots of recommendations for new record keeping requirements on the part of FFLs
  • Requiring placement of alternate serial numbers of every newly manufactured gun, and requiring serial numbers to be deeper and larger. Also require that a consistent serial numbering scheme be adopted across all manufacturers and importers which would be a default ban on many commemorative guns.
  • Asks ATF to promote MAIG’s Responsible Dealer Partnership Program that they foisted on Wal-Mart, much like they do with NSSF’s “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy.” They imply NSSF’s program does not go far enough.
  • Asks the Consumer Product Safety Commission to mandate gun safety lock standards. Gun dealers are required to provide these, but many gun owners are older, or younger, and do not have children. This would be a way to add substantially to the cost of a firearm, if a 30 dollar lock needed to be included with each sale.
  • Extend the multiple purchase reporting requirement to long guns, especially ARs, 50 caliber firearms, and Kalashnikov variants. MAIG is not very clear on this, and I think it would be difficult for dealers to keep track of the current state of regulation.

This document reveals that this group and all of its member mayors are calling for outright gun bans. What’s more telling is that the document specifically outlines how to enact these proposals without going through the accountability of Congress.

We will be tackling these mayors one-by-one in 2010. Gun owners haven’t seen the actual tangible threat by this group yet, but hopefully with this plan to ban guns, add unreasonable restrictions on gun owners, and hike the prices of guns artificially will help shine the light on why this group cannot be ignored.

Elections – Federal
Most eyes will be on federal elections in 2010, especially following the results of November 2009 in New Jersey and Virginia. Candidates are lining up on both sides of the aisle, and we will be providing more specific coverage as more news breaks in 2010.

Gun owners who are registered to vote with a major party need to turn out and vote in the primary election on May 18, 2010. We cannot afford to have anti-gun representatives of any party running on the ballot in November. For those gun owners who are not registered with a party having a primary election, the last day to switch your registration is April 19 if you want to pull a party ballot.

In November, we will likely see some changes in Congress. It is likely some incumbents will lose, leaving the Republican with a few more seats in both chambers. Pennsylvania will obviously be part of these likely changes based on current polls that indicate a likely race between Pat Toomey (R) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is exceptionally close. In the rest of the Senate, we may lose a pro-gun Democratic leader with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). If he is beaten by a likely anti-gun Republican challenger, in addition to losing a pro-gun Majority Leader, we will have another anti-gun vote and a new anti-gun leader in Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). This means that without radical changes of other seats into pro-gun hands, we could be looking at a Senate that is just as hostile to gun rights as Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Elections – State
In Pennsylvania, we will also have major state elections in November (with the primary races in May). The Governor’s seat will capture most of the attention, but we cannot afford to ignore the state legislature. Not only does it put us at a risk for anti-gun legislation, but these representatives will be shaping our Congressional districts. A current review of Census data shows that Pennsylvania is slated to lose a seat in Congress. State lawmakers will determine which district will be erased and how the other districts will be distributed to likely voters. Gerrymandering is rarely a pleasant affair to watch, but it is real and does impact our gun rights.

Recruiting for the Cause
2010 will be a year of changes for gun rights. It’s up to us as to whether those changes are good or bad. While we can’t easily directly influence the decision of McDonald, we can influence elections which influence who is on the Court to hear cases like Heller and McDonald. While we cannot control changing demographics that mean Pennsylvania will lose a Congressional seat, we do control who holds the power to change the districts so that anti-gun forces aren’t given more influence.

Make sure you’re on our email list by sending your name, email, and Congressional district to admin (at) pagunrights (dot) com. Stop by a table at the Valley Forge Gun Show and make sure you’re getting the updates on when we need a hand in advancing freedom.

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