Plenty of red meat, but no real solutions at annual Capitol gun-rights rally | John L. Micek

May 6, 2019 3:01 pm

State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, speaks during a pro-gun rights in the Capitol rotunda on Monday, May 6, 2019 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Kelly Ann Pidgeon runs Armed & Feminine in Indiana, Pa.

She’s a certified firearms instructor who teaches other women how to defend themselves. And during a packed gun-rights rally in the Capitol rotunda on Monday, she offered the crowd a history lesson.

“For more than a century, women have fought for all kinds of rights,” she said. “The right to vote. The right for equality in hiring practices. And now equal rights for self-defense. And a lot of legislation we’re seeing that comes before us gets in the way of women having that right to self-defense.”

And for lawmakers who might try to take that constitutionally protected right away, she had a warning: “Stop putting an agenda in front of a woman’s life.”

And as the capacity audience at the annual rally cheered, a state House panel, meeting in another part of the Capitol, was doing just that — as it methodically voted to legislate another constitutionally protected right out of existence.

By a 15-9 party line vote, the House Health Committee advanced a most likely unconstitutional and entirely unenforceable bill banning abortion based on an in-utero diagnosis of Down syndrome. The bill also faces a guaranteed veto by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

The contrast of the two actions spoke volumes about the priorities of some members of the Legislature’s Republican majority.

The Down syndrome bill, co-sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, is a solution in search of a problem.

Gun violence is an actual public health epidemic. But you’d have been hard pressed to find any real solutions on offer during Monday’s group hug organized by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler.

The answer, it seemed, was just more guns. And that doesn’t work. It’s a truth driven home in a 2017 Scientific American report concluding that “more guns are linked to more crimes: murders, rapes, and other” offenses.

Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York, and Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, both talked Monday about the sanctity of the Second Amendment — even as they’ve each supported bills that would erode a woman’s constitutionally protected right to access an abortion.

It was just a couple of weeks ago, after all, that Borowicz, Phillips-Hill, and every other lawmaker who lined up on Monday to pay homage to the gun lobby were solemnly bowing their heads during a joint legislative session honoring the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Monday, to her credit, Phillips-Hill opened her remarks by decrying the violence in churches and synagogues. And she denounced the rise of “hatred and bigotry” that’s fueled those acts of violence.

But she failed to close the circle by noting that the carnage could have been entirely avoided if, say, the domestic terrorists charged in those shootings didn’t have laughably easy access to the semi-automatic weapons they used to carry out those missions of mass destruction.

From 2007 until the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., 173 people had been killed in mass shootings involving the semi-automatic AR-15, The New York Times reported. The accused shooter in Squirrel Hill had an AR-15 in his arsenal of legally purchased weapons. So, too, did the accused shooter at Congregation Chabad in Poway, Calif., published reports indicated. Authorities are still trying to determine how he obtained the weapon, NBC-7 in San Diego reported.

Borowicz, for her part, said something about “socialists who are bent on destroying our nation,” and then spun out some tangled yarn about a distant relation who fought in the American Revolution. She, too, offered only bromides.

The crowd, of course, ate it up.

But there was no more vivid an example of the lack of interest in concrete solutions than Joshua Prince, the attorney who sued the city of Harrisburg over its gun ordinances. He bragged about legal efforts to short circuit local gun control efforts. And he denounced “red flag” legislation, offered by “alleged Republicans,” that’s now before the General Assembly.

It was “thanks to patriots like you,” Prince crowed, that Pittsburgh officials, for instance, are now fighting off a challenge to the gun ban recently enacted in response to the massacre at the Squirrel Hill synagogue.

Even Pidgeon, who said “we need to work together on solutions to violence,” stopped well short of offering any actual solutions.

So, in the end, Pidgeon was right about one thing. There is an agenda. But it’s not one that’s being put in front of bodies.

It’s one that’s causing bodies to pile up instead.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.