Why We Matter to Politicians

It’s sometimes hard for an activist who has the opportunity to speak with a lawmaker one-on-one to articulate exactly why gun owners deserve their attention among the many interest groups fighting for recognition. I have been asked by both politicians and voters just how many NRA members are active in the Bucks County area, but that’s not a number that is publicly available or that actually matters in the long run.

More than 30 million people believe they are current NRA members.

See, there are a number of factors that reveal why strict NRA membership is a poor measure of pro-gun sentiment. First, there are several groups active at the local, state, and federal level. For many with a limited income, they will often choose the most local organization they can for their membership dollars. Others feel that local or state issues take priority, and may focus their attention on those groups even though NRA is often involved at those levels as well. Second, NRA membership fluctuates between more than 3 million and a little less than 5 million at any given time. As people feel their gun rights are threatened, they tend to step up their involvement. When they get comfortable, they step back from the fight instead of helping us push for more progress on the issue. However, more than 30 million people actually believe they are members of the NRA. This comes from confusion that taking a training course certified by the NRA makes them a member for life or believing that signing up for one year is good for life.

The people who believe they are members of NRA even if their membership is lapsed still look to NRA endorsements and other information from the group about what is happening to their gun rights. They may get it from magazines left at their gun club, email alerts, or updates from their local sportsmen’s club newsletters. They still matter at election time because their votes can be swayed on matters of our Second Amendment rights, yet they would not turn up in a count of strict & current NRA members.

In Pennsylvania, we can use another number to indicate interest in firearms freedom when talking to our local politicians. It’s still far from a perfect number, but it’s relevant nonetheless. We can look to concealed carry licenses issued in each county to give them insight into how many constituents are weighing a politician’s support of our rights. No, the numbers don’t recognize actual gun owners in a county, but they are a representation of gun owners who care about the issues of personal protection and the shooting sports enough to undergo extra background checks and expenses.

No member of Congress wants to risk losing nearly 27,000 votes in his district.

In Bucks County, we can use the data reported to the State Police and add up each of the last five years available to give an approximate number. Right now, it shows that more 26,000 citizens have licenses to carry in the county. When you factor in sportsmen’s firearms permits which are very uncommon, it still adds nearly 1,000 more people to the number.

Even if we know that there are far more gun owners than that in the area, no politician representing the area will want to risk making nearly 27,000 voters upset enough to vote for a primary challenger or challenger from another party. For those challenged by anti-rights candidates, there are still enough votes on the line that they want a record that gives gun owners a bit of extra inspiration to come out to the polls.

For those of you who want to do the calculations for your own county, you can download reports back to 1999 from this site. Remember, the last five years of data is the more up-to-date number.

PA Lawmakers on National Concealed Carry

We’re counting down to the House vote on the issue of national concealed carry license reciprocity this afternoon, and some folks may wonder how Pennsylvania’s lawmakers have been on the issue.

Back in April, we covered the bill shortly after it was introduced. At the time, we could proudly pat nine House members from the Commonwealth on the back for their support of the bill. Since then, more came on to co-sponsor, including Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, Lou Barletta, and Tom Marino.

Based on a rule vote yesterday, it appears that the majority of the Pennsylvania lawmakers plan to support the bill.

These lawmakers deserve our thanks for their support in the vote:

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-3)
Rep. Jason Altmire (D-4)
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-5)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-6)
Rep. Pat Meehan (R-7)
Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-8)
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-9)
Rep. Tom Marino (R-10)
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11)
Rep. Mark Critz (D-12)
Rep. Charlie Dent (D-15)
Rep. Joe Pitts (R-16)
Rep. Tim Holden (D-17)
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-18)
Rep. Todd Platts (R-19)

These are the lawmakers who voted against us on the rule:

Rep. Bob Brady (D-1)
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-2)
Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13)
Rep. Mike Doyle (D-14)

Pennsylvania’s Hunters Help the Hungry this Season

Those who aren’t familiar with Pennsylvania’s hunters may not realize that the sport isn’t just about getting out into the woods to escape the rush of every day life. For some, they will share what they harvest from Pennsylvania’s fields with those most in need.

NSSF recently published 2010 data collected from food banks, the USDA, and hunger programs to study how much hunters have given to those less fortunate. The data is split into regional numbers, and it reveals that Pennsylvania’s hunters, along with those of eight other Northeastern states, donated more than 201,100 pounds of venison to food banks and hunger programs. All of that meat contributed to nearly 805,000 meals for those struggling during these tough economic times.

Around the country, nearly 2.8 million pounds of game meat were donated to programs that feed the hungry. The result was more than 11 million meals served at a time when food banks across the nation have been depleted as families struggle.

NSSF’s Jim Curcuruto points out that the data from confirmed sources is already impressive, “…annual donations could easily be double this amount if ‘direct’ donations from hunters to friends and family are included.”

For more information on how you can contribute if you’re a hunter, check out this listing of Pennsylvania processors for Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry or this list of processors from Hunters Sharing the Harvest.

Local Lawmakers Investigate Obama Administration

Many gun owners have been tuned into NRA News as we learn about the Justice Department’s extremely flawed operation to allow guns to walk into Mexico. Members of Congress have appeared on the show to reveal what they have learned through Congressional hearings, staff research, and reports from whistleblowers.

Three Pennsylvania lawmakers serve on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: Reps. Pat Meehan (PA-7), Todd Platts (PA-19), and Mike Kelly (PA-3). As the committee that has been leading the investigation into the the Obama Administration’s ATF program to knowingly sell guns to criminals who passed them directly into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, the results of their work could directly impact Pennsylvania gun stores and gun owners. Some media reports indicate that the Administration is now considering the elimination of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and we know that they have pursued more regulations on gun shops in response to Mexican drug violence.

Here, Rep. Meehan questions the ATF staff responsible for the operation to try and get to the bottom of the program that purposefully put guns in the hands of criminals.

Rep. Meehan talked to Cam Edwards of NRA News last night to discuss his call for Attorney General Eric Holder to testify.

2012 Federal Elections Taking Shape

Here we are just a few weeks out from the 2011 elections, but most political news is really about 2012. And who can blame anyone for that? There’s a presidential election, a possible shift in the US Senate, a large number of state offices, and news out of early primary states now indicate that the 2012 primaries may begin in 2011 during the holidays.

While Iowa talks of shifting their January 3 caucuses a month earlier and New Hampshire proposes dates as early as December 6, Pennsylvania may still be at least four months awayThe exact timing will depend on the number of challenges filed to any plans. from even having a redistricting plan to determine our legislative districts!

Here is an overview of what gun owners should know about some of the 2012 races:

Presidential Election
Unless there are radical shake-ups, the Democratic nominee will be incumbent Barack Obama. While we have been somewhat fortunate on his unwillingness to veto key legislation even when there are pro-gun amendments attached to it, his appointments to the Supreme Court reflect his true colors on this issue. The fact remains that the Second Amendment as an individual right still hangs in the balance by only one vote, and any replacement of one of the so-called “Heller Five” by this administration will likely lead to either the original case being overturned or limited so severely that there is no judicial respect for the individual right. Currently, the Republican primary is in full swing and will likely heat up here in Pennsylvania come springtime.

US Senate Race
Speculation has been strong about a Republican opponent to Sen. Bob Casey for several years. While he started out his term fairly low profile and uncontroversial, his support of controversial issues such as Obama’s healthcare plans put him on the radar with many Pennsylvanians. Now, the race is beginning to draw more attention from both sides of the aisle.

On the Democratic side, Casey only has one declared challenger so far. Brian KellyReaders are welcome to try and visit his website, kellyforussenate.com. However, when we tried to visit, warnings of serving malware popped up., who ran against former Rep. Paul Kanjorski in 2010, has announced he will launch a campaign next week.

For Republicans, the race is a little more interesting. There are at least nine candidates so far, and new announcements are not off the table. Two candidates have recent Congressional race experience – one from the Southeast and one from the Southwest. Word of Steven Welch’s campaign broke last month after his 2010 campaign for the Republican nomination the 6th congressional district was cut short when incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach re-entered the race. A former challenger to the late Rep. John Murtha and Rep. Mark Critz, Tim Burns entered the Senate race this week.

Another former candidate also launched a campaign out of the Philadelphia suburbs – David Christian who ran for Congress in the 1980s. Erie was the site of Tom Smith’s campaign announcement. John Kensinger, a pharmacist, is running for the seat from Bedford County.

Hailing from the northern part of the state, John Vernon started his campaign in September. From Scranton, a businesswoman named Laureen Cummings has also announced a campaign for the Senate seat. Marc Scaringi, an attorney from the Harrisburg-area, also threw his hat into the ring to take on Sen. Casey.

Gun owners who pay close attention may recall that Sen. Casey had an A rating when he last ran for the seat. However, his support on a key vote for national reciprocity in 2009 was revealed to be open to gun control proponents if they felt they needed it to win a legislative battle. He also supported both of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, including one who voted against individual rights in the McDonald case. With other pro-gun legislation moving in the current Congress, it remains to be seen what happens to the Senator’s 2012 grade.

Sunday Hunting Opponents Attack NRA Members

Opponents of hunting on Sunday have gone on the attack – claiming that NRA members who live, hunt, and shoot here in Pennsylvania should not be counted as local support for ending one of the few remaining blue laws in the country. Their reason? Because the organization that unites us has an office in Virginia.

From this article in The Patriot-News, we get an idea of the “us vs. them” style rhetoric from one group involved in the debate:
It’s the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau vs. the National Rifle Association in a title bout over the legalization of hunting on Sunday.

The Farm Bureau is the defending champion of one of the last remaining blue laws that forbids hunting of most game species on the Lord’s designated day of rest. …

“There are interests outside Pennsylvania with money coming in and pushing this,” [Farm Bureau spokesman Mark] O’Neill said. “They are targeting Pennsylvania.”

Fortunately, the reporter sets Mr. O’Neill straight on a few facts:
Every member of the Sunday Hunting Coalition has significant membership inside Pennsylvania.

The NRA alone has some 400,000 Pennsylvanians on its rolls.

The NSSF has more than 500 Pennsylvania businesses on its rolls.

Yes, Mr. O’Neill, we’re Pennsylvanians – many of our members were born here and have lived here our entire lives. We’re not outside interests or non-residents flying in to force policies upon you.

We’re taxpayers, too. We also pay for the conservation & farming programs that your farmers benefit from at the federal government – Conservation Reserve Program & Wetlands Reserve Program to name a couple. (Let’s not even get into the Farm Bill…) It’s time that we had a voice in this debate, and you should not stoop to the level of calling accusing the fellow citizens who simply disagree with you “interests from outside” of our state.

We’re here, we’re ready for a change, and we hope that your members will work with us on improving the state of hunting in Pennsylvania instead of reducing the debate to “us vs. them” and making threats about shutting out hunters if you don’t get your way.

Gov. Corbett’s Independence Day Message

Sunday Hunting Legislative Efforts

Now that Castle Doctrine has been signed into law, many gun owners and hunters are taking a closer look at another issue that has been up for debate for years now – opening hunting on Sundays in Pennsylvania. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have repealed nearly all of these blue laws that were originally enacted in order to regulate personal religious or moral behavior. Only a small minority maintain their blue laws against hunting.

Advocates of Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania recently released a report on the predicted economic impact of allowing hunting throughout the entire weekend. Now, the legislature is finally moving forward on the proposal. Representative John Evans introduced HB 1760 that was referred to the chamber’s Game and Fisheries Committee this week.

Representative Marc Gergely also released a statement about hist work on this week’s resolution from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to support Sunday hunting:

“I thank the Game Commission for passing this resolution that I requested,” Gergely said. “Sunday hunting would double the number of days many hunters will have to enjoy their sport, create thousands of jobs and attract young people to hunting and conservation.”

A recent legislative hearing on the issue of Sunday hunting had a high turnout, as seen by these photos posted by Rep. Evans. In addition, he recently conducted an interview on the recent meetings and the broader Sunday hunting topics that you can listen to here. He addresses some of the groups opposed to the legislation, as well as the upcoming plans for the House Game & Fisheries Committee in tackling the legislation.

NRA News recently conducted an interview with Rep. Evans on his effort to recruit more co-sponsors on his Sunday hunting bill. Specifically, host Cam Edwards gets to the root of why sportsmen in Pennsylvania want to see this change.

As of the end of June, here are the representatives who have stepped up to support your right to hunt alongside Rep. Evans:

Rep. Edward Staback
Rep. Marc Gergely
Rep. Tom Caltagirone
Rep. Mark Cohen
Rep. Peter Daley
Rep. Tony DeLuca
Rep. Eli Evankovich
Rep. Garth Everett
Rep. Florindo Fabrizio
Rep. Neal Goodman
Rep. John Hornaman
Rep. Tom Killion
Rep. Daryl Metcalfe
Rep. Jerry Mullery
Rep. Tom Murt
Rep. Mike Vereb
Rep. Randy Vulakovich
Rep. Jake Wheatley
Rep. Bill Kortz

As the Game & Fisheries Committee continues to hold hearings on the topic, NRA is asking its members to contact their lawmakers to request their support of the bill.

Game Commission Resolution on Sunday Hunting

This week, the Pennsylvania Game Commission passed the following resolution calling for the end of the ban on Sunday hunting in the Commonwealth:

“The Board of Commissioners for the Pennsylvania Game Commission declares its support for a repeal of prohibitions on Sunday hunting by the amending of Title 34 (Game) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues in Hunting and Trapping.

“Whereas, Pennsylvania has experienced consistent declines in hunting participation by both resident and non-resident hunters over the past several decades, with both the number of license sold and revenues generated experiencing steady declines, and

“Whereas, youth participation is vital to maintaining the long-standing tradition of hunting in Pennsylvania, we can effectively double the number of hunting days for youths during the school year by offering Sunday hunting, and

“Whereas, Sunday hunting is an effective means of recruiting new hunters and retaining current hunters by increasing the value of the hunting license through offering additional opportunities to spend time in the field, and

“Whereas, many Pennsylvania residents seek hunting opportunities and hunting leases in neighboring states that offer Sunday hunting; Sunday hunting will keep Pennsylvania hunters in Pennsylvania, and

“Whereas Pennsylvania has a long-standing tradition of hunting camps and clubs, Sunday hunting will effectively double the number of hunting days for camp owners and club members, and

“Whereas, Sunday hunting is expected to generate a substantial increase in out-of-state license sales and the accompanying revenue for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and

“Whereas, hunting license sales and their associated federal matching funds are the primary revenue source for the Pennsylvania Game Commission in carrying out its mission, including maintaining 1.5 million acres of state game lands and acquisition of additional public lands, research and management of wildlife and providing information and education to the public, and

“Whereas, Sunday hunting will provide substantial economic benefits to rural areas and businesses by increasing money spent by hunters on lodging, food, gas and other incidental items, and

“Whereas, Sunday hunting is expected to generate $629 million in additional spending and create 5,300 new jobs, resulting in $18 million in additional sales and income tax, and

“Whereas, the mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is to manage wildlife and its habitat for current and future generations, and

“Whereas, Sunday hunting, which is currently permitted to control a growing population of coyotes, will provide the biologists of the Pennsylvania Game Commission a new tool to manage wildlife populations, and

“Whereas, the forty-three states that currently permit Sunday hunting have not experienced any discernable impact on the health or vibrancy of game populations, and

“Whereas, the Board of Commissioners recognizes the authority to permit Sunday hunting lies entirely with the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, and

“Whereas, if the General Assembly repeals the restrictions on Sunday hunting thus giving authority to regulate Sunday hunting to the Board of Commissioners, the Board recognizes the many stakeholder groups any action on Sunday hunting will effect and will endeavor to engage these stakeholders before passing any new regulations in regard to Sunday hunting.

“NOW, THEREFOR, we the Board of Commissioners for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, do hereby urge the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to REPEAL the PROHIBITION ON SUNDAY HUNTING IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA.”

Castle Doctrine Lawmakers Celebrate

Based on the smiles on their faces and the speed of their social network updates, more than a few lawmakers were genuinely excited to see Gov. Tom Corbett sign the important self-defense bill into law. Here’s a roundup of statements, tweets, and other posting by lawmakers who fought so hard to pass Castle Doctrine this year.

From Rep. Scott Perry:

“It is a great day for Pennsylvania. I am grateful to Governor Corbett for signing the original Castle Doctrine into law. This will enable law-abiding citizens in our Commonwealth to defend themselves in the face of violent attack. There are many people who worked very hard over the past few years to make this bill become the law of the land.

“Our citizens who work hard and abide by the rules of decent society deserve the protection of the law. They deserve our best effort, and it is gratifying that both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor agree with this. The bill enjoyed wide bipartisan support during the process of passage and I am grateful to all who backed this effort.”

From Rep. Seth Grove:

“Governor Tom Corbett’s signature on legislation that will allow law-abiding citizens to protect themselves is a victory for the people. The new law removes the duty to retreat and allows Pennsylvanians to stand their ground and fight off an attacker. This measure will allow an individual to take whatever action may be necessary to preserve his or her life and protect the safety of loved ones when legitimately threatened.

“This is one of the most popular proposals among York County residents. I have heard from so many people who are fed up with laws that protect criminals and ignore the rights of victims. The new law will provide civil lawsuit protection for those citizens who genuinely act in self defense and will hinder the attempts of criminals to seek jury awards for injuries they receive in the perpetration of a crime.

“I applaud Representative Scott Perry and all my colleagues in the House who came together to make this proposal a reality. It was a great blow to our civil rights when former Governor Ed Rendell vetoed this legislation last year, but Governor Corbett’s signature today goes to show that nothing can stand in the way of good policy.”

Rep. Grove also gave a live Facebook update while he was at the ceremony.

Rep. Stephen Bloom joined the live updates on his Facebook page, and he shared a picture of himself with several other lawmakers, NRA lobbyist John Hohenwarter, and Gov. Tom Corbett.

Rep. Keith Gillespie posted a similar picture with a number of House supporters of the bill and added this comment:

As one who would do all in my power to avoid taking someone else’s life but would protect my family to the death if necessary, I support House Bill 40, the Castle Doctine legislation. I was proud to today be in the company of Gov. Corbett as he signed the legislation into law.

Posting the same picture as Rep. Gillespie, Rep. Ron Miller added his comment:

As one of the cosponsors of House Bill 40, I was pleased to have been in attendance today as Gov. Corbett signed into law the Castle Doctrine legislation.