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Thread: PA Governor reconsiders gun check shutdown

  1. #1
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    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07236/811786-85.stm

    Governor reconsiders gun check shutdown Friday, August 24, 2007 By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau HARRISBURG -- Angry sportsmen and hunters fired a warning shot, and Gov. Ed Rendell heard it.
    Mr. Rendell said yesterday that because of objections from hunters, sportsmen's groups, gun dealers and some state legislators, the Pennsylvania Instant Check System may not be shut down Sept. 2-6 as originally planned.
    State police want to temporarily shut down the system, which allows gun dealers to do instant checks on would-be gun buyers so that guns aren't sold to persons with criminal backgrounds or convictions. The shutdown is needed for a computer upgrade to make the system more efficient.
    Col. Jeffrey B. Miller, state police commissioner, had chosen early September because historically that's when fewer guns are sold than at other times of the year, and thus gun buyers wouldn't be as inconvenienced, Mr. Rendell said.
    But the dates of the planned shutdown are also the start of hunting season for doves and Canada geese, prompting protests from gun dealers, hunters and several important legislators, including Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese, D-Waysnesburg, and Rep. Marc Gergely, D-White Oak, co-chairman of the legislative sportsmen's caucus.
    So Mr. Rendell yesterday named a seven-member panel that will meet Monday and advise him -- no later than Tuesday -- whether there is a better time this fall for the computer shutdown.
    The committee will include four members named by General Assembly leaders, along with Bob Schlemmer of the Governor's Sportsmen's Advisory Board, Melody Zullinger of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportmen's Clubs, and Horsham Police Chief Bob Ruxton, who is also chairman of the state Chiefs of Police Association.
    "We appreciate that he is willing to listen and take a second look at this," said Ms. Zullinger.
    Next week probably would be the best time for the computer upgrade, she said, but there's not enough time now to give advance notice.
    "Once we hit Sept. 1, there is some type of hunting season going on pretty much through the end of the year, plus a lot of big gun shows this fall," she said.
    That's the problem, Mr. Rendell said.
    "There is never a good time to take the system off-line," he said. But he admitted that state police "should have checked with sportsmen's groups" before picking the time for the computer shutdown and upgrade.
    "Someone could have told them that it was the beginning of dove and goose season," he said.
    Mr. DeWeese urged state police to pick a different weekend.
    "Because of the importance of the first week in September, including the Labor Day weekend," he said, "gun retailers historically rely on this period to run promotions to encourage buyers."
    He said that if state police get "input from affected interested parties, the plans for [upgrading the instant check system] can be fulfilled with much less inconvenience to gun buyers and to retailers."
    Mr. Rendell said he had nothing to do with choosing the dates for the shutdown. He angrily rebutted a charge by Mr. Scarnati that it was "just another attempt by liberals from Philadelphia to limit the rights of gun owners and those who wish to become a gun owner."
    He said Col. Miller had approved the dates for the computer shutdown and the state police commander is "neither a liberal nor is he from Philadelphia."
    The governor said that if the GOP leader's comment was a verbal shot at him, Mr. Scarnati was off base.
    "I'm conservative on some issues, such as the death penalty, moderate on other issues and liberal on some issues," said Mr. Rendell, the former mayor of Philadelphia. He said he won't stand for "Philadelphia bashing" by legislators from other parts of the state.
    Mr. Rendell stressed that it's vital to upgrade the computer system because it's used for more than just checking for possible criminal convictions of would-be gun buyers. He said the system was heavily used this summer to check for criminal backgrounds and convictions for sexual offenses committed by applicants for teaching jobs, child care workers, school coaching positions and other sensitive jobs.
    "If this system crashes" because of a lack of an update, he said, "someone could go through a loophole, someone with a mental health problem could buy a gun or a sexual predator could get a teaching job."
    Either we are equal or we are not. Good people ought to be armed where they will, with wits and guns and the truth. NRA *******

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    Let's stop dancing around the issue. This isn't about hunting, it isn't about sporting goods profits, it isn't about what is convenient to certain groups of people, and it isn't about bits and bytes in some office machine. The question is:Can constitutional rights be suspended unilaterally for four days (or four weeks, or four years, or even one day)? The possibility of one BG slipping through the system does not justify infringing on the rights ofeveryone else.

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    We stepped onto the slippery slope of infringement with the 'instant check'. Now they would accellerate the slide to tyranny - the bottom - abetted by the NRA compromisers, 'useful idiots' and 'bought priesthood'.

    Either we are equal or we are not. Good people ought to be armed where they will, with wits and guns and the truth. NRA *******

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