Staback: Respect gun law
BY CHARLES SCHILLINGER
One of Pennsylvania’s most staunch supporters of gun rights is also the longtime state representative for Dickson City, where a community recently sparred with gun-rights advocates who were openly carrying guns in a restaurant.
And while Rep. Ed Sta-back, D-Olyphant, said he could understand residents’ concerns about people being openly armed in public, the law permits it and he supports it.
“It’s the law today. ... And it’s been that way forever in the state and has not been a problem to date,” Mr. Staback said. “But I think if it was me personally, and I needed to carry a gun, I think I would apply for a concealed-weapon permit.”
There is no permit requirement to openly carry a firearm in Pennsylvania.
Two Dickson City police officers responded to Old Country Buffet on May 9 after calls from patrons concerned about several customers who were openly armed. The openly carrying customers, along with other gun-rights advocates, later attended a Dickson City Borough Council meeting alleging they were harassed, and one inappropriately detained, by police.
Facts surrounding the incident are still unclear, and a Dickson City police incident report will not be available until next week. Lackawanna County officials have declined to release the 911 tapes that led to the incident.
Mr. Staback said he doesn’t blame customers for calling the police.
“Here in this area, where you don’t see (people openly carrying), I could well understand people’s anxiety. Sitting there, I probably would take a double look myself,” he said. “But I am comfortable knowing an individual carrying (openly) is not a criminal. Because if he was, he certainly wouldn’t be advertising the fact.”
Mr. Staback, chairman of the Game and Fisheries Committee, has been credited for playing key roles in gun legislation and, last fall, for working to resolve the Pennsylvania Instant Check System shutdown during dove season. He also was named Legislator of the Year by the National Association of Firearms Retailers, the first Pennsylvanian to gain that recognition.
He said there is no need to change the law.
“They have every right to carry a weapon, a handgun, and I will defend that right to do that,” Mr. Staback said. “And I think the support wouldn’t be in General Assembly, where that change would need to be made. ... I think it would be extremely, extremely difficult.”
Police Chief William Stadnitski, who defends his officers’ handling of the situation, said he believed the gun-rights advocates were trying to raise public awareness about gun rights by meeting together and openly carrying at restaurants. Similar meetings at restaurants have been reported in Virginia as well, according to The Associated Press.
If that is the case, Mr. Staback said he doesn’t agree with it.
“Sometimes, it’s better you let a sleeping dog lie,” he said. “I don’t know what point you prove by conducting such meetings, and you could end up putting a focus on an issue that isn’t being focused on.”
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