Joel Mathis, writing in Philadelphia Magazine has his knickers in a serious twist over a new piece of NRA-supported legislation which just passed the Pennsylvania House and is awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee. His article, The NRA Wants Your Submission spends 841 words excoriating the NRA and the legislature, explicating how when this bill passes the will of the peepul will be squashed and “little towns and boroughs” will be sued into oblivion. Unfortunately Joel is either incompetent or just flat out lying, because the bill in question will do nothing of the sort . . .
He starts out:
The NRA is coming, folks. It will have your tax dollars or your submission to its pro-gun agenda — and, by God, maybe it will have both.
Well there are lots of people firmly attached to the public teat, some more legitimately than others. What makes Joel think that the NRA is lining up for their mouthful?
Don’t believe me? Then take a look at the text of House Bill1243.
Okay Joel, I looked at it; what’s the problem?
Here’s what the bill does: It discourages Pennsylvania cities and municipalities from passing gun laws that are more restrictive than state-level gun laws, or from keeping such laws that are already on the books.
Well, yeah, that’s called preemption and it has been on the books in Pennsylvania since October 18, 1974! What HB 1243 does is actually put teeth into the law since, as the NRA-ILA points out in this release,
[O]ver recent years, nearly 50 local governments have enacted gun control ordinances in violation of the current state firearms preemption law.
We saw the same thing in Florida three or four years ago. If preemption statutes have no teeth, hoplophobic local governments will quite happily ignore them to pass their “gun safety” ordinances and, when it is pointed out that they are in violation of the law they tend to reply “so sue us,” secure in the knowledge that such suit will cost them nothing but some taxpayer dollars.
Joel gets to the root of his plaint when he tells us just who can sue:
Gun owners — as well as any “membership organization” whose members are gun owners in compliance with state law, whether or not those members have actually run afoul of the local laws or not, or whether they even care or not.
That’s right: “Membership organization.” … [W]e all know what House Bill 1243 really means: It gives the NRA the right to sue Pennsylvania’s cities and municipalities.
I guess Joel is incompetent (whether or not he is also a liar is still up in the air) as a simple search on the phrase gun preemption lawsuits would have shown him that the NRA is not the sole group interested in protecting peoples’ civil rights by asking local governments to obey the law. The Second Amendment Foundation and local carry groups (Georgia Carry, Florida Carry and Minnesota’s Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance for example) have cleared scores of unlawful ordinances across the country. Unfortunately, such lawsuits cost money and law-abiding gun owners can’t just raise the property taxes next year to fund them. HB1243 changes that by requiring courts to award “reasonable expenses” to plaintiffs.
Setting aside questions about Joel’s rectitude and competence, however, why shouldn’t an organization whose law-abiding members are being subjected to illegal laws be able to sue? Joel tells us why he thinks they shouldn’t:
Under the new bill, the NRA doesn’t have to find a plaintiff to testify to wrongdoing — all it has to do is look at a city’s laws and decide it doesn’t like the cut of the city’s gib[sic]. That’s a rare privilege, one that the NRA hasn’t demonstrated it deserves.
I’m sorry, since when did taking scofflaw public officials to court to force them to obey the law become a privilege?
Second, this is not a question of how sails should be trimmed or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It is really quite a simple question: Does the “political subdivision” in question attempt to:
in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.
If the answer is “Yes” then they are breaking the law and in the process violating peoples’ natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional rights and therefore should be flogged around the square and ridden out of town on a rail required to cough up the plaintiff’s expenses. Expenses, I might add, which they could have avoided by simply not passing illegal ordinances, or by repealing such ordinances when informed of their illegality.
Joel then starts in on those “reasonable restrictions” which “everyone can agree on”:
I get that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. But there are subsets of people that we as a society have decided are largely exempt from those guarantees — the mentally ill, for example, and ex-cons, usually. Many law-abiding gun owners can agree with those restrictions!
It’s true that many gunnies agree with these sorts of restrictions, which is why they are incorporated into state law. But Joel wants still more:
That leads to one example of an area where state gun law isn’t restrictive enough, and Pennsylvania cities have had to step in. … Some of those cities have passed laws that require gun owners to report to police when a firearm is lost or stolen from them. It’s a useful tool in helping law enforcement trace (and even prevent) the use of firearms in deadly crimes.
That’s not a requirement that remotely infringes on the right to bear a firearm….
Okay I’d like to know how reporting stolen firearms can help prevent their use in a crime, but setting that aside, the supposed purpose of such laws is to prevent straw purchasers and traffickers from claiming “oh, I lost that gun” when a crime gun is traced back to them.
Let’s think about that for a moment; just how stupid do these people think traffickers are? Suppose that I’m a gun trafficker who is funneling guns to criminals and one of my guns is found at the scene of a crime. Joel’s idea is that the police will descend upon my Eee-vil Lair, listen to my pathetic “[s]omeone stole it from me” excuse, clap me in irons and then whisk me away to durance vile so I may pay my debt to society (okay, actually in Pittsburgh it is $500 for a first offense and $1,000 plus 90 days in county lock-up for second and subsequent offenses).
Here is what I think will happen:
Officer Friendly: Knock-knock
Little Old Young Me: Yeah, hey dude what’s up?
OF: Sir we found a Glongfield XD-55 Serial number 123ABC at a crime scene and traced it back to you.
LYM: Well that can’t be right; I’ve got it locked up in my shed.
(-trudge- -trudge- -trudge- lock unlocks)
OF: Sir this shed appears to be empty.
LYM: Oh my stars and garters! I’ve been robbed!
OF: Sir, the law requires that you report any lost or stolen firearm within 24 hours of discovering that it is gone.
LYM: Well it’s a good thing you’re here then! *snicker* Officer, I want to report a stolen gun.
Repeat as necessary, and since no one can prove when any particular weapon was stolen or when the owner found out about it, laugh all the way to the bank as the trafficking continues unimpeded.
Second, of course it’s an infringement! This is one more law that will be ignored by criminals and used to harass otherwise law-abiding gun owners. It’s also a perfect example of why state-wide preemption is needed, to avoid a crazy-quilt patchwork of laws varying from city to city.
There are 2,639 separate political subdivisions in the state of Pennsylvania and if people like Joel had his way, every single one of them would be free to ignore existing state law and pass their local ordinances with impunity. Sorry Joel. No sale.