This is to funny.God bless the NRA and the gun owners of PA for voting down the new gun laws.
Two GOP votes test gun lobby in Penna.
Defections have meant doom, but polls hint at hope for survival.
By Thomas Fitzgerald and Amy Worden
Inquirer Staff Writers
The axioms of state politics dictate that two Republican House members from the Philadelphia suburbs risked political death when they crossed party lines Tuesday to vote for a gun-control bill.
Those rules may be changing, however, with Pennsylvania polls indicating majority support for stricter regulation of handguns and a newly emboldened advocacy group determined to counter the National Rifle Association's traditional power.
Reps. Kate Harper (R., Montgomery) and Bernard O'Neill (R., Bucks) voted for a bill to limit handgun buyers to one purchase a month. The measure failed to get out of the Democratic-controlled Judiciary Committee.
Harper, of Blue Bell, said she was reflecting the will of her constituents, knowing that the gun lobby may try to exact revenge next year.
"To the single-issue voters, this is an antigun vote," Harper said. "I am afraid this will come back to bite me next election season."
But, she added, "I think I did the right thing."
O'Neill, of Warminster, did not respond to a request to explain his vote. A Bucks County GOP political consultant said that O'Neill's 29th District was moderate, and that he was unlikely to face a primary challenge over the issue.
John Hohenwarter, a lobbyist for the NRA in Harrisburg, said the votes disappointed him, but that it was too early to say whether O'Neill and Harper would fail to get his group's endorsement next year.
"We would take a lot of things into consideration before we target them," he said. "Are we going to grade them on that vote? Absolutely."
After votes on three gun-control bills Tuesday, the NRA posted the committee's roll calls on its Web site and urged members to call lawmakers who had voted yes and ask why they had voted to "restrict the rights of law abiding gun owners." The NRA claims 250,000 dues-paying members in Pennsylvania, and is renowned for its effectiveness at mobilizing members.
The Judiciary Committee also voted down a bill that would allow municipalities to enact gun legislation and tabled a measure that would require people to report lost or stolen guns immediately to police.
In a rare appearance by a governor before a legislative committee, Rendell urged lawmakers Tuesday to "stand up and be counted" on the rising gun violence in the state's cities. He said he believed the hearing had "galvanized" the gun-control movement.
"I think we're going to have a lot of angry Pennsylvania citizens," Rendell said, noting polls in which even majorities of gun owners voiced support for limiting handgun purchases to one a month.
"Lawmakers from the southeast have never been forced to say yea or nay," said Rendell, who, despite describing the NRA as a "machine," beat three of its endorsed candidates (Mike Fisher, Bob Casey and Lynn Swann) in statewide contests. "Look at the votes and you'll see some electoral CYA. They should be afraid of the voters."
Phil Goldsmith, president of CeaseFirePA, said his advocacy group would push handgun control in strategic legislative districts.
"If we're going to get the attention of legislators and earn their political respect, we have to do the analysis and target who we think is not representing their constituents on this, and add our voice," he said. "My model is the NRA. I'm just copying their playbook. . . . I admire the work they do politically."
CeaseFirePA has a political action committee, but it has not filed campaign-finance reports with the state since 2004, when it gave $750 to the U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Joe Hoeffel.
The NRA Political Victory Fund, the organization's PAC, has been much more active in state races, but it has hardly opened the money spigot wide. One possible reason: The NRA has not been politically threatened, as gun-control legislation in the Pennsylvania General Assembly is typically blocked before any lawmakers have to cast a public vote.
The NRA spent $23,009 in 2003 and 2004, according to state campaign-finance reports, mostly as contributions to legislators in both parties seeking reelection. The group also paid for a mailing in support of Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett.
The organization spent $15,797.46 in the 2005-06 state election cycle, the reports show. It went to legislative candidates as contributions and a $1,934 direct-mail advertisement promoting Swann, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.
Melody Zullinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsman's Clubs, said the group did not endorse or target candidates in campaigns, but "that's not to say other groups won't look to pinpoint" Harper and O'Neill.
Zullinger, who was preparing a report on Tuesday's vote to post on the group's Web site, said O'Neill and Harper had strong pro-gun voting records.
Tom Hickey Sr., a Democratic political strategist from Drexel Hill, said opposing gun control had become a "career-ending decision" for politicians in Delaware County because people are alarmed at violence.
"Philadelphia crime is increasing, and now we're seeing it," Hickey said, adding that a woman and her 7-year-old daughter had been held up at gunpoint last week in his normally quiet neighborhood. "This is not a right-to-own-a-gun issue. This is a protecting-people issue."
Why can't all the politicians reference DC and realize that controlling guns with laws doesn't work?
i still say a bow season on gun grabbers is the answer.
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