Joined by a large contingent of supporters and members of the Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Association, state legislators gathered today at the Main Capitol Rotunda to call for more “freedom” for gun owners in the commonwealth.
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) explained that the purpose of the rally was to draw attention to the importance of maintaining the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article 1, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and to “regain ground” taken by gun control advocates.
Dave Bray, a musician and veteran from York County, encouraged the crowd to cheer loudly to show their “God-fearing, freedom-loving, flag-waving” patriotism and then played a tribute song he said he wrote for fallen police officers.
Following the song, Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Allegheny) spoke about eliminating the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) and supplanting it with the National Instant Check System (NICS). Although he was briefly interrupted by the shouts of a March on Harrisburg protester in the upper Rotunda who unfurled a large banner, Rep. Ortitay said that HB 763 would allow Pennsylvanians to exercise their rights without suffering a fee. He also said that it would permit the FBI to perform – for no extra cost – the background checks that currently cost Pennsylvania more than $7 million a year. Furthermore, pointed out Rep. Ortitay, the PICS system theoretically allows criminal residents to simply purchase their guns out-of-state. With this, he concluded that HB 763 will better allow Pennsylvania to fight crime.
Rep. Metcalfe was subjected to unintelligible shouts from the aforementioned protesters and criticized them for not being “respectful” like the gun rights rally crowd.
Joshua Prince, an attorney specializing in gun issues, stated that recent court cases show that changes in presidential administration “do have an impact on the law” because President Trump’s Solicitor General had advised the Justice Department to not continue with a case that would have limited the firearm rights of a juvenile mental health offender who had become a United States Army paratrooper and a police officer. He shared that a Lower Merion Township law against discharges of firearms on properties was thrown out by a court, but that his groups want to implement state legislation to preempt local laws in violation of state law and in order to get attorney costs back to gun owners. “Harrisburg has seven laws against state law and they don’t care – they flaunt it,” said Prince. “They go out and enforce them. Enough is enough.”
Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry) said the Second Amendment should not be challenged anywhere in Pennsylvania or anywhere in the United States. HB 671, he said, is a constitutional measure designed to prevent those challenges. He stated that America’s founders and veterans “risked their lives” across generations to give citizens the right to keep and bear arms.
Rep. Eli Evankovich (R-Westmoreland) said that there has never been a more confusing time in history with so many things questioning “truth” of many centuries, but that the right to keep and bear arms is unquestionable. He said that the right to keep and bear arms tells the government that it cannot “bully” citizens and tells potential foreign enemies that, “If you have to try to invade the United States, you’re gonna have a little problem.”
Shaneen Allen explained that she is a resident of Philadelphia and that she had a Pennsylvania permit to carry a firearm for self-defense because of having been the victim of two robberies in south Philadelphia. When she drove to New Jersey, however, to visit her daughter’s birthday party, she said she was pulled over by a police officer who arrested her when she volunteered the information that she had a carry permit and a firearm on her person. Allen said she spent 48 days in prison for this offense, which she does not believe is a legally valid one. She expressed the hope that President Trump will sign legislation to make the right to carry a firearm one that is enshrined nationwide with no aberrations like her case. She said she did not want anyone else to go through a similar situation.
Rep. Metcalfe credited then Lt. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey for pardoning Allen in her case.
Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny) thanked people for traveling from all over Pennsylvania to “make some noise” for the Second Amendment. Referring to HB 170, Rep. Saccone said that “constitutional carry” is “sweeping the nation” and needs to be passed in Pennsylvania, and that there may be enough votes to override a potential veto. Directing his voice towards the “other side,” Rep. Saccone exclaimed, “We’re gonna make you retreat back to your little safe place because we’re never gonna surrender the Second Amendment!”
John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, said that the police understand that citizens should have guns because police officers can only rarely arrive at a crime scene on time to prevent violence and that armed citizens are the best bet to respond to a criminal threat immediately. Lott said that every single country that has banned guns has seen an increase in murder rates. In relation to background check fees, he said that lawful citizens in poor, high-crime neighborhoods are the ones most likely to suffer negative repercussions from the fees. Lott also said that neither Canada nor any American state or city has ever been able to solve a criminal case because of gun registrations because criminals rarely leave such guns at crime scenes.
Rep. Metcalfe said that the rights of sheriffs need to be maintained so that they can “go after the criminal element.” Seguing to a different subject, Rep. Metcalfe said that during interrogation on the House floor he had once asked a Philadelphia legislator, who, he said, “is now in Congress, unfortunately,” if he had ever read the Second Amendment or Article 1, Section 21. The legislator replied negatively. Rep. Metcalfe opined that he and his fellow pro-gun legislators, unlike that Congressman, will read the documents they swear to uphold.
At Rep. Metcalfe’s invitation, Butler County Sheriff Michael T. Slupe led the crowd in the citizen’s oath.
House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) said America’s founders “knew what they were doing” in putting the Second Amendment in the Constitution and that no one has done a better job than Rep. Metcalfe and his bipartisan colleagues in holding off “attacks and grabs with respects to taking away those rights.” He said that the legislature will put legislation to protect gun rights on the governor’s desk.
Rep. Metcalfe then performed a drawing for a Smith & Wesson M&P Bodyguard .380 caliber pistol courtesy of a gun store in Washington County, saying it was a honor to perform such a drawing in the “people’s house.” He closed the rally by commending the crowd and asking them to talk to legislators around the Capitol, and said that one of the protesters who had interrupted himself and Rep. Ortitay earlier had been taken into custody.
Among the many legislators present in support were Senators Elder Vogel (R-Beaver), Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington), Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne), Michele Brooks (R-Mercer), and Mike Regan (R-Cumberland); and Representatives Dan Moul (R-Adams), Will Tallman (R-Adams), Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny), Paul Schemel (R-Franklin), Chris Sainato (D-Lawrence), Brandon Neuman (D-Washington), Keith Greiner (R-Lancaster), Seth Grove (R-York), Brad Roae (R-Crawford), Karen Boback (R-Luzerne), Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny), David Hickernell (R-Lancaster), Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon), Martin Causer (R-McKean), Lee James (R-Venango), Barry Jozwiak (R-Berks), Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon), Dom Costa (D-Allegheny), Jerry Knowles (R-Schuylkill), Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon), George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland), Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), Mark Gillen (R-Berks), Justin Walsh (R-Westmoreland), Dave Reed (R-Indiana), Bud Cook (R-Washington), Matthew Dowling (R-Fayette), Johnathan Fritz (R-Susquehanna), Zachary Mako (R-Northampton), Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion), and David Millard (R-Columbia).