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News & Editorials

The Pennsylvania Report - for the Allegheny County Sportsmen's League

I have told many people if you want to see how gun rights will survive if we get a Republican Administration and keep a Republican controlled Congress all that one needs to do is watch what has, and is, happening in Pennsylvania.

In addition to the horrible mess as a result of Pennsylvania Act 17 passing in 1995 last December, NRA staffers approved a ban on gun manufacturers lawsuits that we told them would not ban lawsuits before Philadelphia recently sued gun manufacturers, a gun safety amendment that turned into a ban on the sale of handguns that are sold without trigger locks, a mandatory trigger lock usage with liability penalties if handgun owners who do not keep trigger locks on their handguns, and most recently, after pressure by pro-gun lawmakers, the Pennsylvania State Police admitted that they are maintaining a record of all handgun sales (read registration) in spite of the fact that it supposedly prohibited under state law, and they will continue to do so in spite of the law.

Of corse Governor Ridge's office had no comment, maybe because he is proud of the fact that he has computerized over 8 million of those handgun records and he is still counting. But do not fear, E.D.ILA Jim Baker told us that none of this would happen on his watch. Just like the assault weapons ban, and the Brady law did not happen on his watch.

ILA staffers in Pennsylvania believe it is more important pleasing the Governor and Republican leadership than protecting gun owners rights.

Last December, the Pennsylvania General Assembly supported amendments to a Senate bill amending anti-stalking and harassment legislation. These amendments were to exempt gun manufacturers from lawsuits, provide for checking firearms in a court facility, making the possession of a firearm illegal if it's serial numbers were altered, changed, removed or obliterated, and mandating the prohibition on the sale or transfer of all handguns unless the dealer provides/sells a locking device, to the purchaser, for the firearm or the design of the firearm incorporates a locking device.

The Allegheny County Sportsmen's League argued that the language in the bill to prohibit gun manufacturer lawsuits would, in fact, allow them because the language added a loophole to the bill. We also argued against the mandatory sale of handgun locking devices because it would place unnecessary liability on the owners of such firearms, and there was no proof that such devices are effective in reducing illegal access to firearms. Failing to draw NRA's attention to our concerns about the legislation we asked members of the legislature to vote no on the bill.

The NRA fought hard for passage of the legislation even though it contains the mandatory handgun locking devices language. In a letter to both Houses NRA state liaison John Hohenwarter wrote: "Another provision provides that licensed firearm dealers must provide a "trigger locking device" with the sale of any firearm as defined in section 6102 of Title 18, the Uniform Firearms Act. NRA would have preferred this provision to require only that licensed dealers make trigger-locking devices available for sale to firearm purchasers. Nevertheless, because of the importance of the other provisions to law abiding gun owners and to the public, NRA asks that you support the omnibus legislation in order to ensure their enactment."

In response to the ACSL's request for a No vote on the bill, Hohenwarter sent a memo to the full house of representatives, which was hand carried by Act 17 sponsor Rep. Robert Godshall that read: "It has been brought to our attention that one or more local sportsman's groups or individuals from the western part of the Commonwealth are asking for a "no" vote on SB 167. These groups or individuals do not represent the NRA. Their position is not the NRA position."

Thus the NRA position achieved the following legislative result:

1. Liability on the gun owner for not using trigger locks even if gun is stolen.

2. The law contains no grandfather clause for previously purchased handguns

3. The law is so broad that it even covers antique guns

4. A law that does not stop gun manufacturer lawsuits

5. Further alienation of the grassroots activists

Shortly after passage of the bill and the signing of it into law by Gov. Tom Ridge, the city of Philadelphia filed suit against the gun industry.

Recently, we acquired the transcripts of the floor debates on the amendments. As you know, legislative intent is very important to understand just what a particular piece of legislation is designed to do. It is used many times to guide court decisions and to draft regulations. A very alarming exchange occurred between the maker of the locking device amendment, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Republican Thomas Gannon, and anti-gun Democrat Andrew Carn:

The SPEAKER pro tempore: On the amendment, the Chair recognizes the gentleman from Philadelphia, Mr. Carn.

Mr. CARN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Would the maker of the amendment stand for interrogation, please?

The SPEAKER pro tempore: The gentleman, Mr. Gannon, indicates that he is willing to stand for interrogation. You may proceed.

Mr. CARN. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Under this amendment, if someone is properly utilizing a trigger lock and that gun is subsequently taken and used in a crime, is the owner of that gun exempt from being sued? What is his liability?

Mr. GANNON: Mr. Speaker, I would have to say that, in my view, the owner would not be exempt from a lawsuit, but I do not believe the owner would be held liable if he was exercising prudent and reasonable care in use of the trigger lock. If a case or a lawsuit was filed against the owner on a theory of negligence, I do not believe the owner would be negligent and therefore responsible.

Mr. CARN: But is there any language that exempts the owner from liability under those conditions?

Mr. GANNON: There is not any language that would exempt the owner, but certainly in a court, that would be a defense to any claim, and I believe that it would be an absolute defense if the owner established that he was using a trigger lock and was exercising the care required.

Mr. CARN. Mr. Speaker, what does your amendment say as it relates to antique guns? Do owners of antique guns have to also have trigger locks for their antique guns?

Mr. GANNON: No, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. CARN: Where is that language that states that, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. GANNON: Only if the person is purchasing an antique gun from a dealer, that would require a trigger lock.

Mr. CARN. I was looking for language to that effect. Do you know- Could you point it out to me, please?

Mr. GANNON: Yes. The rule, as set out in the amendment, is that when a licensee transfers a handgun, it has to have a trigger lock, so it does not matter whether or not it was an antique weapon or not. It requires it.

Mr. CARN. So you are saying that all antique weapons, under this amendment, would also, under this law, if this became law, would be required to have a locking device?

Mr. GANNON: Antique weapons would not be exempt.

Mr. CARN. Okay. Thank you. Another question, please: What happens if someone goes into a dealer shop to purchase a gun and at that particular time the dealer does not have safety locks to sell? Is that dealer, if this was law, able to sell that gun at that time?


Mr. CARN. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. GANNON: Mr. Speaker, if I may, I want to make it clear, because there was some confusion, this amendment, this trigger locking device, only applies to handguns, not to long guns or rifles. I think you are aware of that, but I wanted to make it clear on the record.

Mr. CARN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I have finished my interrogation and would like to speak on the amendment.

The SPEAKER pro tempore: The gentleman is recognized.

Mr. CARN. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

"First, I would like to thank this House for taking this time to debate what I consider to be a very serious issue in Pennsylvania, the access of handguns, and I am concerned that when we take action such as to require trigger locks, I think we need to offer an incentive such as exemption from liability to those who comply with our laws. I have an amendment that hopefully, when we go further, we will get a chance to consider that. Also, I think that it is important because of the tremendous number of antique guns that exist in this State that are not being used or not fired, that they should also have an exemption, since they are not necessarily a threat and hopefully through a future amendment we can address that. Also, I am concerned that dealers, if this became law, if they run out of trigger locks, I am concerned that they still might sell this gun and be in violation of the law, and I think that is an issue that we need to address. Now, one of the other concerns that bothered me with this particular amendment is that it does not exempt law enforcement officers, and I think that is a provision that we need to include in any law, because there are many law enforcement officers who need their guns or need their handguns in a moment's notice, and I think we need to be clear in that they have the opportunity to be exempt from such a trigger lock provision. And for that reason I am hoping that we shall consider a future amendment that would address these concerns as well.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As you can see, the current NRA leadership is not concerned with winning, just the perception of winning. Unfortunately, the losers here will be average gun owners who unintentionally cross paths with a 'winning' system designed to crush them without any regard to criminal intent.

Remember the words of James J. Baker in Charlotte, "Not on my watch". Well, it's time to check the watch Jim! By the way, has anyone forgotten the instant check system? That was on Baker's watch too. PA gun owners cannot stand too many more of these types of victories.

Just recently, Pennsylvania state Representative Daryl Metcalfe and 20 other pro-gun legislators sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania state police asking whether the state police is keeping records of handgun sales in violation of state law. Instead of sending their response to Metcalfe they sent the Metcalfe letter to a reporter on the anti-gun Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Post-Gazette questioned Governor Tom Ridge's office about the letter, but they had no response. Maybe that is because Gov. Tom Ridge is proud of the fact that he has computerized 8 million of those record of sales.

The state police, according to the Post-Gazette, acknowledged that the law requires them to destroy the records of a background check, but they denied that keeping the record of sale as being a registry of firearm owners. NRA Staffers in Pennsylvania have supported the State Police's position and will not move to stop the registry.

We can not let Al Gore capture the Presidency. But if George Bush picks Tom Ridge for Vice President, we will have to keep a close watch on our gun rights under that Administration.


The Allegheny County Sportsmen's League is another one of the growing number of groups who prize the Second Amendment above the NRA, and thus they have the full support of  If you are not yet aware of the NRA's gun control measures, perhaps it is time you learn what they are doing against freedom in this country.  Start by investigating why there are gun rights leaders from around the nation standing against the NRA's loud call for the enforcement for 20,000+ unconstitutional gun laws through our Project Exile Condemnation Coalition.  Please use our auto-emailers to reach your entire state legislatures to make your voice heard.  And for God's sake please VOTE on election day!  ~~ KABA

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