This morning, various news outlets confirmed what has been speculated for months – former Congressman Patrick Murphy is running for Pennsylvania Attorney General in 2012. With Murphy’s record and the power of the Attorney General, gun owners in the Commonwealth have reasons to be worried.
With the role of Attorney General, there are a number of ways in which decisions will impact gun owners. The most direct is through the power to sign & maintain reciprocity agreements with other states to honor concealed carry licenses. As Attorney General, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a number of these agreements. Whether Patrick Murphy would do the same, or even if he would consider revoking or revising agreements remains to be seen. Hopefully this is an issue the press & voters will have the chance to ask him about during the next 12-19 months of the campaign.
Another power of the Attorney General is to write or sign briefs going before the Supreme Court representing the interests of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the landmark DC v. Heller case which clearly articulated a right to own a handgun in your home for self-defense, then-Attorney General Tom Corbett joined 30 other states in defending the right to own a firearm. When it came to the similar brief filed by more than 300 members of Congress, then-Representative Patrick Murphy refused to sign. In fact his refusal to support an individual right to bear arms before the Court stands in contrast to the 13 Pennsylvania colleagues from both sides of the aisle who signaled their support. He also accepted campaign donations from the Brady Campaign who sided with the Washington, DC government officials who said there was no individual right to arms.
Though often a far less official role, the Attorney General may signal support or opposition to legislative positions. With Murphy’s record, we should question what this could mean for Pennsylvania. In 2008, he signed on to co-sponsor a gun ban that was so broad, it would have banned all semi-automatic shotguns. He may also influence policy in a more official role by refusing to get involved when local governments push the limits of the state’s preemption statute.
Fortunately, with a year to go before the party primaries, there’s plenty of time for conversation & action when more candidates have announced their intentions on running. However, if you’re a gun owner, especially a Democratic gun owner who plans to vote in next year’s primary, it’s not too early to start asking questions.