Government & Politics
8:20 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Rallies in Harrisburg to Focus on Both Sides of Gun Debate

http://2cccd5dfe1965e26adf6-26c50ce30a6867b5a67335a93e186605.r53.cf1.rackcdn.com/Web Gun Rally.mp3

People from across Pennsylvania will gather in Harrisburg Wednesday, some to call for tougher gun laws in the state, some to voice support for how things currently stand. CeaseFirePA is holding its “Day of Action” to voice support of a five-point agenda to lawmakers:

  • Requiring background checks on all sales of guns and ammunition in the state, and closing a loophole that allows sales of long guns between private parties without a background check.
  • Enacting a statewide requirement that if a gun owner has a gun go missing, either through loss or theft, they must report it to the police.
  • Ensuring state standards govern when Pennsylvanians can carry concealed weapons. Currently, the state has reciprocity with other states that are not as strict, so someone who may not qualify for a concealed carry permit in the commonwealth may qualify in another state – then they can carry the gun in Pennsylvania.
  • Removal of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines from the public sphere
  • The fifth point has already been accomplished:  to make sure PA sends more than 600,000 mental health records that it had in criminal background check system to federal system

“For many years, those records were not shared with the federal system which meant that somebody that might be barred from buying a gun in Pennsylvania because of something in their mental health history might be able to cross state lines and buy a gun somewhere else that was only relying on the federal database,” said CeaseFire PA Executive Director Shira Goodman.

Both Sides Represented

But not everyone agrees that such changes need to be made. Members of groups such as the Allegheny County Sportmen’s League (ACSL) will also be in Harrisburg Wednesday. Those groups will hold the “Responsible Citizens Rally” to tell lawmakers not to change gun laws.

“The current comments and arguments in favor of further limitations of constitutional rights of Pennsylvania citizens under the Second Amendment are not only ill-advised and counter-productive, but are also unconstitutional,” said Kim Stolfer, legislative committee chairman with ACSL.

Stolfer said tighter background checks will not help curb gun violence. He accused groups such as CeaseFirePA of taking advantage of national tragedies to further an agenda. But CeaseFire’s Shira Goodman said that’s not the case, and added her group is trying to curb the gun violence that affects more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians each year.

“As tragic as Sandy Hook was, we know that we need to deal with the daily toll that gun violence takes because when people have easy access to guns, when legally bought guns become lost or stolen or improperly transferred to people who aren’t allowed to have them we have tragedies in our state and we need to do better,” she said.

Stolfer disagreed, and said rather than making guns harder to acquire, laws governing criminal activity need to be examined.

“We have 31,000 laws, it’s the most regulated consumer product in this country and yet we continue to have more crimes the same way they happen before because we don’t prosecute criminals, we don’t hold officials accountable and law-abiding citizens, in many cases, are either disarmed or have their rights so weakened it’s tantamount to being useless,” he said.

Wednesday’s rallies are only parts of larger efforts on both sides of the gun debate. CeaseFirePA plans to release a public service video and hold other rallies and meetings; the gun-rights advocates will hold a large rally in Harrisburg in April.