Heading into the 2014 Elections

The petitions have been filed, and now we have a clearer picture of the big races on the ballot this year in Pennsylvania. Some gun control backers have indicated that they just need to make it past the elections before they try pushing their bills at the federal level again, so the issue is not going away any time soon.

At the federal level, all 18 Congressional seats are up in 2014, but no Senate spots will be on the ballot. The races that should stand out for gun owners include most of Southeast Pennsylvania, and a handful in other parts of the state.

Perhaps one of the most watched seats in the country will be PA-6, a district that includes Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and Lebanon Counties. The seat is currently held by Rep. Jim Gerlach, an A rated incumbent who is retiring at the end of this term. Republican Ryan Costello, currently the Chairman of the Chester County Board of Commissioners, isn’t facing any GOP challenge on the primary ballot. Dueling for the Democratic nomination are first time candidate Mike Parrish and Manan Trivedi, a three-time candidate who has repeatedly refused to answer policy questions from NRA members.
UPDATE: Word has now come that Democrat Mike Parrish has dropped out after filing his petitions.

In PA-7 (portions of Berks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, and Montgomery Counties), Democrats are lining up behind university professor Mary Ellen Balchunis to take on pro-Second Amendment Rep. Pat Meehan. In an interview with the local paper, and previous tweets supporting White House gun control efforts, Balchunis indicates that she will make passing federal gun control a top priority should she win.

I support common-sense steps to reduce gun violence. #NowIsTheTime to act. Share this if you agree: http://t.co/CjyJv0RbvU

— Mary Ellen Balchunis (@poliscidoc) April 17, 2013

While the district probably won’t be terribly competitive for an anti-gun Democrat who worked with NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg to bring more gun control to Pennsylvania as member of MAIG, former Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson is a late entry into the PA-4 race against A+ rated Rep. Scott Perry. Under Mayor Thompson’s leadership, Harrisburg earned the distinction of being the first ever city charged with securities fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission over issuing misleading financial information released by the city’s administration. This election race will impact gun owners in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, and York Counties.

For gun owners in PA-8 (Bucks and Montgomery Counties), previously A rated Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick is facing two Democratic opponents. Neither Kevin Strouse nor Shaughnessy Naughton has a background in politics with any kind of voting record on Second Amendment issues. Both have indicated support for President Obama’s previous gun control agenda in interviews, and Ms. Naughton says she plans to push a mandate for “gun liability insurance,” typically a bill that requires gun owners carry insurance policies that don’t even exist in order to continue exercising their fundamental rights. (NRA-ILA most recently addressed the many problems in this type of legislation in Washington, DC.)

On the opposite side of the state, PA-12, a previous battleground district in Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria, Lawrence, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties, A rated Rep. Keith Rothfus is facing two Democratic challengers, John Hugya and Erin McClelland, a candidate who has publicly backed portions of the President’s gun control agendas in local media.

Just to the north in Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Lawrence, and Mercer Counties represented in PA-3, A rated Rep. Mike Kelly appears to have drawn two Democratic opponents, Dan LaVallee and Mel Marin who appear to have no voting records on the issue.

Across the state in PA-10, Democratic challenger Scott Brion is on the ballot against A rated Rep. Tom Marino in the district that includes Bradford, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lycoming, Mifflin, Monroe, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, and Wayne Counties. While A rated Rep. Lou Barletta is being challenged by Democrat Andy Ostrowski in neighboring district PA-11 that includes Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Luzerne, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, and Wyoming Counties.

In less worrisome districts unlikely to see a serious challenge by gun control advocates, A rated incumbents Rep. Tim Murphy and Rep. Charlie Dent have no opponents at this time, A rated Rep. Joe Pitts currently has two Democratic opponents (including B rated former State Rep. Tom Houghton), A rated Rep. Bill Shuster has drawn two GOP challengers with one Democrat on the ticket, and A rated Rep. G.T. Thompson currently has two Democratic opponents.

Unfortunately, a handful of districts in Pennsylvania have a reputation and the political base to send gun control advocates to Congress without a serious challenge. Those include Philadelphia’s incumbents Rep. Bob Brady and Rep. Chaka Fattah, though each has drawn a GOP challenger. In a similarly safe anti-rights district out west, Pittsburgh’s Rep. Mike Doyle has a primary opponent. In PA-13 (Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties), the Democratic candidates are largely a who’s who of gun control advocates vying for the seat with F rated State Sen. Daylin Leach facing off against D+ rated State Rep. Brendan Boyle, former Rep. Marjorie Margolies who has a history of supporting semi-auto bans, and Val Arkoosh who has no voting record on the issue. There are two GOP candidates in this district, but neither is likely to pose a serious challenge to the Democratic primary winner. In PA-17, which used to support a former Second Amendment-supporting Democrat, there is no primary challenge to Democrat Rep. Matt Cartwright, though three GOP candidates are on the ballot.

In our next post, we’ll look at statewide races gun owners need to focus on for 2014.

The Impact of Supreme Court Elections

Eugene Volokh highlights how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has opened the door to redefine Pennsylvania’s self-defense standard from one which requires the state to disprove a claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, to one where the defendant has to prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. This would essentially shift the burden from the state to the defendant. Prof. Volokh notes that the legislature can codify the standard and settle the issue, which we might need to start pushing. A burden shift like this is going to mean more ambiguous self-defense cases are going to end up going to trial, even if the state doesn’t have a remarkably strong case.

Looks like we’re not finished on this subject yet in Pennsylvania. Looking at the opinion here, it would seem to me that there might be the votes to change the standard, since three justices joined in the Chief’s opinion, while only two filed concurring opinions that took issue with the self-defense statements. Note that Orie Melvin did not participate in this case because she was on leave from the court, and eventually convicted of several felonies.

Pennsylvania conducts Supreme Court elections in off years. A lot of people, including gun owners, don’t vote in these elections. These are the wages of that belief. Or perhaps I should say the continuing wages of that belief, because we’re still living with de facto registration in Pennsylvania thanks to the ruling in ACSL v. Rendell. I’d note that opinion was handed down in 2004, and we’re still hearing nothing but promises from legislators in terms of fixing that, nearly a decade later. I would not hold out hope they’ll fix the self-defense issue if the Supreme Court acts there in any kind of timely manner. Supreme Court elections are very important.

The Impact of Supreme Court Elections

Eugene Volokh highlights how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has opened the door to redefine Pennsylvania’s self-defense standard from one which requires the state to disprove a claim of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, to one where the defendant has to prove self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence. This would essentially shift the burden from the state to the defendant. Prof. Volokh notes that the legislature can codify the standard and settle the issue, which we might need to start pushing. A burden shift like this is going to mean more ambiguous self-defense cases are going to end up going to trial, even if the state doesn’t have a remarkably strong case.

Looks like we’re not finished on this subject yet in Pennsylvania. Looking at the opinion here, it would seem to me that there might be the votes to change the standard, since three justices joined in the Chief’s opinion, while only two filed concurring opinions that took issue with the self-defense statements. Note that Orie Melvin did not participate in this case because she was on leave from the court, and eventually convicted of several felonies.

Pennsylvania conducts Supreme Court elections in off years. A lot of people, including gun owners, don’t vote in these elections. These are the wages of that belief. Or perhaps I should say the continuing wages of that belief, because we’re still living with de facto registration in Pennsylvania thanks to the ruling in ACSL v. Rendell. I’d note that opinion was handed down in 2004, and we’re still hearing nothing but promises from legislators in terms of fixing that, nearly a decade later. I would not hold out hope they’ll fix the self-defense issue if the Supreme Court acts there in any kind of timely manner. Supreme Court elections are very important.

Municipalities Violating Preemption

This is a great example of why states need preemption laws. Morrisville, PA has an ordinance that bans possession of firearms in their public parks unless a distinct permit has been issued.
The activities listed below shall not be permitted in any park or playground unless a permit has been secured for such activity from the Borough Council, or its agent, the Borough Manager. No permit shall be issued unless an application therefor shall have been made at least 24 hours before the time of the activity. In the case of seasonal activities, a permit may be issued for the entire season.

(a) Groups or parties in excess of 12 persons.
(b) Placements of placards, advertisements or public notices.
(c) Fires, other than in a fireplace or other equipment provided for cooking purposes, or for a bonfire or campfire as part of an authorized event.
(d) Firearms or the discharge of firearms or other weapons.
(e) Soliciting of alms or subscriptions.
(f) Selling or exposing for sale any articles.

The language that “firearms” “shall not be permitted” “unless a permit has been secured for such activity from the Borough Council, or its agent, the Borough Manager” that must be submitted “at least 24 hours before the time of the activity” seems to make it pretty clear that they issue their own permits to possess firearms in parks at least 24 hours in advance of your planned time to be in the park. I wanted to know more about this little gem of an ordinance.

In trying to find out more about that permit, I called the borough, found myself transferred to three different staff members in Borough Hall in my first call, put on hold for nearly 10 minutes, and still couldn’t tell you anything about the process to apply for this permit outlined in their code. I was then told to contact the Police Department for the permit information, including cost, but the Police Department said that any and all permitting in regards to parks happens through Borough Hall and sent me back to the third woman with whom I spoke. She eventually transfered me to a borough leader who said that the borough doesn’t actually issue permits, but they require that state licenses to carry in order to possess firearms in any way in public parks. I very specifically asked if that applied to open carry as well, and he said that all carry in parks required the state license to carry. (This is illegal for them to demand.)

What’s interesting is that this borough has already been warned off of violating Pennsylvania’s preemption law in a letter sent by firearms attorney Joshua Prince just four days ago. It would appear that instead of requiring you to notify them at least 24 hours in advance of any trips to the park and securing a permit at an unknown price with, what I was told, an application that apparently never existed, they are continuing to violate state law by demanding licenses to carry concealed for any possession at all – concealed or not.

This why we need preemption with some teeth. A good start is Sen. Rich Alloway‘s SB 876. It does at least make local governments pay for the cost of challenging their abuses of power. It would certainly improve the situation in Morrisville since, in all likelihood, the problem ordinance never would have been passed in the first place. Even if it was on the books, the borough itself would be on the financial hook for a court challenge to their illegal ordinance and almost certainly wouldn’t find it acceptable for their leaders to give out illegal advice without consequence.

Can you imagine what a mess gun owners would be in if ordinances like this one were allowed to stand? The permits could cost hundreds of dollars or require gun owners to fund security for the “event” of having a concealed firearm in the park, permits could have complex application forms that required absurd advance notice, or we could find out that, like Morrisville, applications never existed because they never intended to honor their own ordinance that requires a borough-issued permit to possess.

Unfortunately, Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, Morrisville’s State Senator, has not signed on as a co-sponsor of this preemption bill, even with this blatant violation of state law in his own district.

NRA Takes Over Harrisburg Sportsmen’s Show

The NRA just helped deal a one-two economic punch to anti-gunners today–we’re talking tens of millions of dollars worth of economic punches.

In case you missed it back in January, Reed Exhibitions sponsored the Eastern Sport & Outdoor Show (ESOS) in Harrisburg every year and managed to generate upwards of $74 million in a local economic impact and in support of the non-profits that raise money and sign up memberships at the ESOS. However, Reed suddenly banned the display of modern sporting rifles this year and the backlash of their attack on our community cost them so many vendors and customer refund requests that they had to “postpone” the show. The show has never been rescheduled by the company and the entire situation was handled so poorly by Reed that some lawmakers publicly indicated that they hoped Reed would never be allowed to host the show again.

All of that meant that Harrisburg-area tourism groups and Farm Show Complex organizers went shopping for a new host to a sporting show for the region. Conveniently, NRA already hosts a smaller scale show just 70 miles down the road in Maryland right around the same time of year.

It was announced today that NRA has been selected as the vendor to run a much larger scale Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg during the traditional time of the ESOS going forward. NRA members who attended the NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits in Pittsburgh in 2004 or 2011 know that the organization has great experience running massive shows in Pennsylvania. We look forward to the addition of this annual show drawing in gun owners from around the region.

Maryland, after pushing extreme anti-gun legislation, now loses the economic impact of that show and Pennsylvania gets a new vendor for the sportsmen’s show that doesn’t turn on the hunters & shooters who support the show. To top it off, Reed forever loses the multi-million dollar show they once hosted. Anti-gunners from Reed & the Maryland legislature lose big opportunities and Pennsylvania wins with a better exhibition host and added dollars into the economy.

Pat Toomey Works on Gun Control Bill

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you know we’ve been sounding the alarm since Friday that reports were coming out Senate Democrats were turning to Pennsylvania’s Republican Senator Pat Toomey for help on passing new gun control bills. It appears as though they may have convinced him.

Toomey spox: “Senators Toomey and Manchin continue to work on final details but they appear close to a deal.” — Jonathan Tamari (@JonathanTamari) April 9, 2013



NBC News also reports that Sen. Toomey’s spokesperson is scheduling a press conference alongside West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin to promote this deal.

There’s nothing available on what deal he put together, but Pennsylvania voters need to make every single phone in every single office ring loud and clear tomorrow morning. Every office that allows voicemails should have a completely full box by the time staff arrive. Call tonight; call again tomorrow.

Need a reminder for the phone numbers?

DC – (202) 224-4254 Allentown – (610) 434-1444 Erie – (814) 453-3010 Harrisburg – (717) 782-3951 Philadelphia – (215) 241-1090 Pittsburgh – (412) 803-3501 Scranton – (570) 941-3540 Johnstown – (814) 266-5970

If you find they are full by the time you call, send an email and call again in the morning when staff arrive.

It’s tough to say whether a flood of calls will truly change Sen. Toomey’s mind at this point, but the debate isn’t over and there have been no votes cast, so the message that gun owners are not happy needs to be sent loud and clear.

Sen. Toomey’s response is disconcerting since it means that some House Republicans from Pennsylvania in tight districts will likely look to support to gun control bills floated in the House of Representatives. With that in mind, it’s wise to start contacting your Congressman now, too. If you live in the ring counties of Philadelphia, this is particularly important.

Lancaster to Vote on Gun Control Resolution

Some Pennsylvania activists are trying to drum up opposition to a local effort to promote more gun control at the federal level. Lancaster’s City Council is expected to vote on Tuesday to support Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Guns & all of their gun control efforts.

A fellow Election Volunteer Coordinator shared the email addresses for any Lancaster residents who can’t make it to the meeting to oppose this resolution:

Louise B. Williams, President – LBWilliams1@aol.com
John E. Graupera – jeg114@gmail.com
James D. Reichenbach – jamesreichenbach@comcast.net
Tim J. Roschel – Troschel@aol.com
Todd E. Smith – Tesmith1111@yahoo.com
Jose E. Urdametz – Jurdaneta@urdaneta.net
Barbara J. Wilson – bwilson.citycouncil@gmail.com

The linked article notes that the resolution is expected to pass. Regardless, it might be worth reminding these council members that municipal elections are this year. An outcry might just make some hesitate to use limited city resources to promote gun control at the behest of the New York City mayor.

Standing to Fight Bloomberg’s Billions

Today, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is partnering with President Obama to call forth any grassroots they can find to promote gun control. As Pennsylvania residents, you may see rallies, petition drives, commercials on cable and broadcast, and candlelight vigils at night. They are rolling out in every single corner of the state. Some local groups of gun owners are planning to counter with peaceful and quiet protests using signs with phrases like, “They have the First amendment because of the 2nd.”

Bloomberg’s anti-gun group of mayors will use their representative in Easton, PA to partner with Organizing for Action for an anti-gun rally this afternoon. Another MAIG mayor, this one from Chester in Delaware County, is advertising a press event for more gun control. In Pittsburgh, MAIG has recruited three of the Democratic candidates for mayor on this year’s ballot to do a press conference calling for more gun control.

OFA must have heard that Pennsylvania gun owners have been organizing massive postcard and letter campaigns to lawmakers as of late because now they are trying to do petitions for gun control in Democratic strongholds in and around Philadelphia like Media, Center City, New Hope, Ambler, and North Philadelphia.

Joining MAIG on the rally front, OFA has recruited Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro to lead their gun control drive locally. In the Lehigh Valley, OFA is doing a vigil tonight to promote more gun control. Across the state, OFA will hold a vigil outside of Rep. Mike Kelly’s office to pressure him to support more gun control.

After this primary day of action, OFA is setting up in Johnstown to have a hunter to come talk to volunteers and help them write letters to the editors of regional newspapers that support gun control from a fake pro-gun perspective. Also after the main action, MAIG is sponsoring a rally for gun control on Saturday just north of Philadelphia, alongside a local state representative’s new anti-gun advocacy group, Bucks Safe, that will coincide with the multi-million dollar television ad purchase made by Bloomberg.

In addition to calling your federal lawmakers and letting them know that you stand for the Second Amendment and expect the same from them, NRA is encouraging folks to change their social media icons today to the Stand & Fight logo.

Bloomberg Drops Big Money in Pennsylvania

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg is spending $12 million dollars to target voters in key states, including Pennsylvania. The television ads run by the Mayor do not identify that they are funded by Bloomberg, and they feature a self-proclaimed gun owner actor who says that nothing about Sen. Chuck Schumer’s background check bill will put any current gun owners at risk. Informed gun owners who have read the language know that it’s an absolute trap designed to make the concept of a “transfer” so complicated that one needs legal advice to figure out if leaving town on a business trip will turn the entire family into felons facing five years in prison.

The anti-gun group founded & funded by Mayor Bloomberg is also making a splash local politics with an event in Bucks County this month. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is sponsoring a rally for gun control in Doylestown, 27 miles north of Philadelphia, alongside Rep. Steve Santarsiero‘s new anti-gun advocacy group, Bucks Safe, that will coincide with the television ad purchase.

The perception that Bloomberg’s political donations and multi-million dollar ad buys will provide political cover from upset voters may already be impacting the votes of Sen. Bob Casey. On Saturday morning, he voted against legislation that would prevent the United Nations from overriding individual Second Amendment rights protections through their Arms Trade Treaty. The amendment had bi-partisan support from Senators around the country, including Sen. Pat Toomey.

PA to Get $19.1 Million in Guns & Ammo Taxes

The run on firearms and ammunition since President Obama took office has frustrated many with bare shelves and long waits before orders are fulfilled. However, the surge in gun-related spending has resulted in a windfall of returns for hunters & shooters through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program.

Today, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that Pennsylvania would receive a record $19,158,429 in matching grants to fund projects to restore, conserve, manage and enhance wild birds and mammals and their habitat. Projects also include providing public use and access to wildlife resources, hunter education and development and management of public shooting ranges. The non-federal share of project funds (at least 25% of a project cost) often comes from state revenues derived from license fees paid by hunters.

The total funds dispersed nationwide come to $522.5 million for the year, and that shatters the previous record of $473 million in 2010, according to media reports. That year, Pennsylvania received $17,020,573.

The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act includes an apportionment formula that distributes program funds to States based on the area of the state (50%) and the number of paid hunting license holders (50%). No state may receive more than 5 percent, or less than one-half of one percent of the total apportionment.

Wildlife Restoration program funds come from manufacturer excise taxes collected by the U.S. Treasury and deposited in the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund. The Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) administers the Trust Fund. Once collected, the funds are distributed to state fish and wildlife agencies for eligible wildlife restoration activities. The manufacturer excise taxes include:

10% tax on pistols, handguns, and revolvers; 11% on firearms and ammunition; and 11% tax on bows, quivers, broadheads, and points.