proposed laws

PA Bill Number: HB2745

Title: In firearms and other dangerous articles, providing for the offense of undetectable firearms.

Description: In firearms and other dangerous articles, providing for the offense of undetectable firearms. ...

Last Action:

Last Action Date: Oct 18, 2018

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upcoming events

Congressman Keith Rothfus Veteran Meet & Greet - 10/19/2018
Coraopolis V.F.W. Post #402 412 Mulberry Street, Coraopolis, PA

Prince Law Bi-Annual Machine Gun Shoot - 10/20/2018
Eastern Lancaster County Rod and Gun Club 966 Smyrna Road, Kinzers, PA

Concealed Carry Rights and Safety Seminar - 10/25/2018
North Franklin Volunteer Fire Hall 565 Sylvan Drive, Washington, PA

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Why gun violence doesn't lead to gun control: Up close with firearms :: 05/15/2018

Opponents of assault weapons ban are winning because they have more concrete reasons to care about their guns than backers of the ban have to care about laws.


Iowa Gun Owners, a Des Moines-based gun-rights group formed in January 2009, gave away this AR-15 assault rifle in February 2014.(Photo: The Des Moines Register)

I pull the trigger. There is a sharp cracking sound, and the stock kicks into my shoulder. Fifty feet in front of me, the paper target shudders, punctured with another bullet-hole. 

I'm shooting too low, punching a cluster of shots just beneath the three-inch-wide orange circle at which I'm aiming. It has been years since I last shot a gun, and I've never used one like this. 

Some people would call it an "assault rifle," and it certainly looks like one. It is a Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22, a .22-caliber semiautomatic. It is a smaller caliber look-alike of the controversial AR-15.

The gun in my hands could be made illegal if the Delaware General Assembly passes Senate Bill 163 — the "assault weapons ban" that has become the most fiercely-contested legislation of this session. It would be a felony to buy, sell or transfer it — even to own it, unless you could prove you bought it before the ban took effect.

This particular gun is owned by Jim Bowman, president of the Delaware Rifle and Pistol Club outside Wilmington. He and another club leader, Roger Boyce, graciously invited me to come shoot so I could get a better understanding of why gun owners like them oppose SB 163.

The gun is fitted with an electronic sight, so, even as a relative novice, it doesn't take long before I'm rapidly cycling between five different targets, the bullets chewing big holes in the orange circles.

There is a trance-like feeling to concentrating utterly on a target, focusing on the minute muscle movements that separate a hit from a miss. I can quickly understand the appeal of sport-shooting.

More profoundly, holding this firearm is immensely empowering. I understand how it would give its owner a sense of strength in protecting himself and his family.

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Shooting this gun, I soon get why gun owners are winning the battle over so-called "assault weapons" in Delaware.

Even as the General Assembly makes bipartisan progress on other gun safety legislation, it hasn't even been able to get SB 163 out of its first committee. The reason is simple: At the grass-roots level, opponents of an assault weapons ban have turned out in far greater numbers and with far greater fervor than proponents.

I don't care how many national polls you show a state senator, they're going to listen to what they hear directly from constituents. And, from what I hear, lawmakers are getting way more emails and phone calls from opponents of SB 163 than from supporters.

Why is there such an enthusiasm gap? I think it's because, for most gun control supporters, "assault weapons" are an abstract concept. For gun owners, they are concrete personal property.

A supporter of an assault weapons ban can think these guns are unnecessary, but a gun owner has felt the kick of the stock into the shoulder, has held its re-assuring weight in his or her arms.

A gun control advocate can believe nobody should have magazines with more than ten bullets, but a gun owner knows how hard it is to hit a moving target in broad daylight, let alone in the dark while your fight-or-flight instinct is in high gear.

Of course there are some gun owners and even ex-soldiers who support SB 163. But, by and large, most who support the ban have never touched the guns they want to ban.

These types of weapons are almost never used in crimes in Delaware. Supporters of a ban argue we shouldn't wait for a shooting to happen but, as a practical political matter, there just aren't that many Delawareans who have a personal reason to support a ban — and there are plenty who have personal reasons to oppose it.

Visiting the Rifle and Pistol Club also reminded me just how obsessively cautious most gun owners with their firearms. Even when backing up only a few meters to a new shooting position, Bowman and Boyce removed the magazines from their guns, put flags in the chambers and put everything back in their cases.

If my finger moved to the trigger unconsciously, or if my gun dipped down away from the target, even for a moment, they would immediately correct me. Joining their club requires an eight-hour training course and a grueling 3-hour qualifying test, and I could fill a column listing the safety measures it employs.

Is it any wonder that responsible gun owners like these would bristle at the notion they can't be trusted with these firearms? Can you blame Boyce for grimacing when people label his property an "assault weapon," when all he's ever used it for is harmless target shooting?

I personally support most of the gun control bills in the General Assembly this year, but I was conflicted about the assault weapon ban even before I went to the Rifle and Pistol Club. I'm even more conflicted now.

One thing is clear to me: Second Amendment rights are far more than an abstract concept to those who defend them. And I have a hard time seeing how its supporters are going to get around that.

Matthew Albright is the engagement editor of the Delaware News Journal where this column first appeared.