Gun Debate About to Flare Up in Pennsylvania Senate

Republicans maneuver to pass bill giving NRA standing to sue Pennsylvania cities.


The gun debate seems likely to get heated today in the Pennsylvania Senate.

We told you last week about House Bill 1243, which would give the NRA standing to sue local cities and municipalities for having gun laws more restrictive than allowed by the state. When Democrats promised to weigh that bill down with a number of amendments, Republicans withdrew it last week from consideration from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Instead, they’ve taken it directly to the Senate floor. Democrats who oppose the bill say Republicans plan to amend it today to House Bill 1746 — a bill otherwise designed to offer new protections to the state’s domestic violence victims — then “call the question” immediately, so that no debate on that amendment, or additional amendments, will be allowed: Only a quick up-or-down vote that Republicans seem likely to win on straight party representation.

It’s a procedure one legislative staffer said he’d never seen before.

The main hope left of defeating the bill, said Sen. Daylin Leach, is to hope that some Republican senators from Southeastern Pennsylvania get cold feet voting for a pro-gun bill so close to November’s mid-term elections.

“This is a terrible vote for Southeastern Republicans,” said Leach, a Philadelphia Democrat.  He added: “It’s proof, if more was needed, that the majority party (Republicans) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA.”

Sen. Larry Farnese, also a Philadelphia Democrat, said he planned to keep challenging the bill with amendments of his own. The NRA, he said, shouldn’t be given special standing to sue local governments and possibly reap taxpayer money as a result.

“I am not an anti-gun person. I am not an anti-NRA person,” Farnese said “But the representation of that organization in this building is very unreasonable, unwilling to compromise, and mean-spirited at times.”

But the NRA contends that local governments have wrongly infringed on gun rights in recent years and that a tool is needed to allow pushback.

“To date, nearly fifty municipalities have enacted illegal local gun control ordinances, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Lancaster and Reading,” the organization said in a bulletin to members. “Enough is enough.  After four years, it’s time for the Pennsylvania Legislature to finally pass this critical legislation, without playing games with your Second Amendment rights.”

The maneuver also drew the ire of domestic violence activists, who gathered  in Harrisburg on Tuesday to commemorate Pennsylvanians who have died as a result of domestic violence. They were worried that their efforts might be scuttled in fighting over gun provisions that weren’t intended to be part of their bill. (See the letter below.)

The Senate was getting underway at 10:30 a.m — a half-hour late to accommodate senators who were in session until 1 a.m. Wednesday fighting over the issue. Proceedings can be watched here.