Friday, July 31, 2009

Reciprocity Bill Defeated With Help of Local Mayors

A story appeared in both the Citizen’s Voice and Hazleton Standard Speaker dealing with the recent firearms proposal suggested by Republican Senators Thune and Vitter. The proposal would have required states to recognize another state’s concealed carry permit as they do for marriage and driver’s licenses. Under current laws, a state must reach a reciprocity agreement with another state in order for this to occur. Pennsylvania currently has reciprocity with over half of the states in the country. This does however create a patchwork of laws for the traveling gun owner that could land them in serious trouble if they confuse who allows and who doesn’t allow acknowledgement of their permit.

When the bill was advanced in the Senate, it was defeated with the help of Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Arlen Specter.

One of the groups leading the charge against the amendment was a coalition of Mayors. Locally, Carbondale Mayor Justin Taylor, Cherry Valley Mayor Ronald Lockwood, Old Forge Mayor Michelle Patrini Avvisato, Stroudsburg Mayor Charles Baugham, and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton joined this coalition. This coalition also ran advertising in a few Pennsylvania newspapers to apply pressure on the issue.

Despite the sensationalism attached to the bill, all it did was require states honor another state’s license. Local laws would apply to the permit holder when in the new jurisdiction. It merely meant that your rights did not cease when you crossed a state line. Beyond the 2nd Amendment, Article IV section 1 of the Constitution should cover this. It reads “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.” Additionally, these Mayors are sworn to uphold our State Constitution. Article 1 Section 21 of Pennsylvania’s Constitution reads “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”

The right to protect yourself and your family should have no boundaries. And when it does, criminals certainly don’t respect them. This bill would have actually enhanced public safety. It has been proven time and again that criminals are deterred from committing a crime when they believe or suspect that the intended victim may be armed. It is counterintuitive to suggest otherwise. Does anyone really believe a criminal will seek to engage an armed soon to be victim over an unarmed one?

An often neglected result of this bill relates to Law Enforcement Officers. This bill would have allowed law enforcement to carry their firearm when they travel. Currently, this is not the case. They must first seek approval to carry their firearm despite their voluminous training and proficiency in the use of firearms.

Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta was not included in the coalition. He defended firearm rights in the above mentioned story. Mayors like Leighton in particular are blaming inanimate objects for the crimes in their cities instead of the actors perpetuating the crimes. Leighton should support his police force, increase their numbers if need be, and work against allowing anyone caught perpetuating a crime with a firearm from plea bargaining in the case. Prosecutors too frequently prefer the path of least resistance and allow gun offenders a lighter sentence. If he wanted to use the bully pulpit of his office for something, taking any prosecutor to task that doesn’t prosecute a gun offender to the fullest extent of the law would be a better use of his time than throwing in with a group of Mayors that seek to increase restrictions on the good guys.

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