UPDATED: In what some might consider a stunningly frank editorial, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette verbally spanked Mayor Bill Peduto this week following the city’s loss in its attempt to create its own gun control laws—a reaction to last year’s tragic Tree of Life Synagogue shooting—in spite of Pennsylvania’s Uniform Firearms Act.
That’s the Keystone State’s preemption law, which prohibits local municipalities from adopting their own gun laws. Such laws have been adopted by a majority of state legislatures, with Washington being among the first. Peduto pushed through three ordinances, and the court slapped them down.
BULLETIN — The Washington Department of Licensing reported Friday that October saw the number of active concealed pistol licenses climb to 638,639, an increase of 7,388 new CPLs since the last report Oct. 1. Last month at this time, the DOL reported 631,251 active CPLs. On Dec. 31, 2018 there were 608,460 active CPLs in the state. This translates to a spike of 30,179 new carry licenses issued during the past ten months, an average of more than 3,000 per month.
As noted by the Post-Gazette’s editorial, “This outcome was expected by challengers and supporters alike. The spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto admitted that “the city and its outside legal counsel have always expected this to be a long legal fight, and will continue to fight for the right to take commonsense steps to prevent future gun violence.”
“But how exactly,” the editorial queried, “is it common sense to violate the law? These ordinances clearly exceed Pittsburgh’s legal authority. Judge James ruled that they are ‘void and unenforceable.’”
In the final analysis, the editorial notes, “Pittsburgh’s illegal gun control ordinances are little more than a distraction, siphoning attention and resources from meaningful efforts to build a safer Pittsburgh.”
And therein is described a problem editorial boards at other newspapers may have. While the prevailing sentiment in newsroom after newsroom seems often to be on the side of increasing restrictions on the Second Amendment in an environment where the First Amendment is virtually sacrosanct, the rights of law-abiding gun owners seem to be constantly thrown under the nearest bus, say gun rights activists.
Case in point is an editorial that appeared in the Seattle Times more than a year ago, endorsing passage of gun control Initiative 1639. That measure is so egregious, say critics, that it is being challenged in federal court, and now there is a vigorous effort to repeal it via another measure, Initiative 1094. Sheriffs in several Washington counties are not actively enforcing I-1639.
The Times editorial board, which seems fond of every new gun control scheme to pop out of the fog, had this to say: “Initiative 1639 would smartly make it more difficult for everyone to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle by increasing background-check requirements and adding a 10-day waiting period. These are similar to Washington requirements to buy a handgun. This proposal makes sense.
“Opponents, led by the National Rifle Association, argue the initiative would not improve public safety because so few crimes and homicides are committed with long-guns of any kind. Even if this new law could save just one life a year, it would be worth any inconvenience the proposal might cause for responsible gun owners.”
The Times also endorsed gun control Initiative 594 back in 2014, insisting it’s “universal background check” requirement would keep guns out of “illegal hands.” That measure passed. Eighteen months later, a 19-year-old used a legally-purchased rifle to open fire at a party in Mukilteo, a community north of Seattle. Three months after that, another 19-year-old used a rifle taken from his step-father to kill five people at a shopping mall in Burlington. The initiative has failed to prevent criminals from getting their hands on firearms. Indeed, the number of homicides in Seattle has increased annually since that initiative was passed.
Likewise, Seattle’s gun and ammunition tax adopted in 2015 has also failed to stop people from killing one another. Now, the Tacoma City Council is considering an identical tax.
Gun control proponents invariably call their rights-erosive schemes “common sense.” Gun owners wishing only to be left alone to exercise a constitutionally-enumerated, fundamental right wonder what is so sensible about bans on entire classes of firearms, licensing and registration requirements, proof-of-training mandates (literacy tests), waiting periods and other restrictions they see as infringements and impairments.
In Pittsburgh, the editorial board said “cooler heads should have prevailed” in the city, especially after the District Attorney told the city it did not have the authority to buck state statute.
Newspapers would rightly react tenaciously if someone suggested waiting periods before publishing controversial editorials, or sensational news stories. They would defend the First Amendment vigorously.
Second Amendment advocates are no less passionate, because the argument here isn’t really about guns, it’s about rights.