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

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.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

4 COMMENTS

  1. C’Mon John, sensationalist muck should NOT be your stock in trade and that’s all this article is! Try reporting the facts! The Rally was decrying the ‘fact’ that people like you ALWAYS seek to take away, restrict, ban, demonize law-abiding citizens rights because you REFUSE to point the finger where it ‘needs’ to be pointed-the FAILURE of government to deal with violent criminals.
    It’s NOT our fault that there is a revolving door at the court house NOR is it up to us to sacrifice OUR rights to make you or your squeamish, uninformed friends feel comfortable about ‘doing something’ when your flaccid ideas leave us defenseless to the monsters you fail to recognize is the REAL threat. Your policies and advocacy have resulted in the body count we now have AND YOU and the anti-gun groups are the REAL danger to Americans.
    We have MORE LAWS NOW THAN EVER on the 2nd Amendment so I PROPOSE this; since this article misrepresented SO MUCH of this debate and was full of artful lies lets regulate the 1st Amendment just like the 2nd Amendment! After all, with Rights come Responsibilities and IF YOU cannot present the truth from both sides you have abrogated your rights under the 1st Amendment!!

    • Hi Kim.
      Always nice to hear from you. You’ll note the piece was published in our Commentary section, thus it’s my opinion, and not a straight news story. Last time I checked, the 1st Amendment says this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
      As an astute scholar of the Constitution, I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s no requirement, explicit or implicit, that I get “both sides” when I’m arguing my position on the issue. And, as an astute scholar of the Constitution, I’m sure you’re also aware that there are already libel, fighting words, and clear and present danger restrictions on freedom of speech. Just as there are restrictions on your right to own a firearm. Hope you’re well. Talk soon. JLM

  2. John,
    Thanks for the reply. You just made part of my point. Current gun laws ‘do’ put the burden on the law abiding citizen exercising their 2nd Amendment rights and yet, even then, we are the focus of derision by other citizens who do not face the same limitations.
    Case in Point, you reference this: “Gun violence is an actual public health epidemic.” Yet this is a flat out lie. The FBI/UCR shows that violence with firearms is down ‘over’ 50% in the last two decades. Further, America is ‘not even’ in the top 10 countries for mass murders. In addition, the FBI report showed nearly 20% of the American Mass Murders were stopped or limited by citizens carrying firearms legally, yet somehow that gets lost. So how many MORE Americans would be dead without that option and ‘why’ don’t we examine the problems with Gun Free Zones??
    Stigmatizing, perpetuation a like to further a narrative that is false; John I expect better of you! You have a very powerful weapon – the 1st Amendment – at your disposal; just like the 2nd Amendment. IF you want to fire it indiscriminately then criticism of this is just as warranted for you as I would criticism a gun owner who acted irresponsibly.
    This ‘commentary’ was propaganda based in lies and bias that, in and of itself, avoids the opportunity to engage in a worthwhile dialogue on true solutions. They are out there, solutions that is, but the Senator is right, both sides are ‘counting coup’ like a Commanche warrior instead of being willing to do what’s right and step up to the plate.
    I’ve been doing this for 35 years and the ONLY reason gun control fails to pass is because anti-gun groups have been shown to be liars and that gun control has killed thousands and thousands of Americans over the last 5 decades. I will debate ANYONE on these issues and our information is compelling and irrefutable ‘if’ one wants to learn.

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