Gun control versus gun rights. Outspoken individuals on both sides braved cold temperatures to participate in a heated debate at the State Capitol.
Armed with signs, a few dozen pro-gun supporters lined the front steps of the Capitol Wednesday morning. Many with PA Responsible Citizens were bundled from head-to-toe in camouflage and Carhartt as many stood in 15-degree weather to fight for Second Amendment Rights.
State Representative Jeff Pyle (R-Indiana County) led the rally. Pyle stood at the podium and called lawmaker's actions to ban ‘assault weapons' unconstitutional. He further stated that blaming inanimate objects for violence was nonsense.
"If we're going to do that, why haven't we banned driving? It kills 10 times more people ever year than guns do," said Pyle. "Why have we not outlawed the sale of ladders? Because, more people die by a factor of four, then are killed by guns."
2011 is the latest national crime report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to those statistics, there were more than 32,000 shooting deaths. Of those deaths, about 8,500 were homicides. Little more than 350 of those homicides involved using a "rifle".
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported 32,000 fatal accidents in 2011. The same year, the World Health Organization reported about 350 deaths resulted from falling off a ladder.
Pyle's main argument against banning assault weapons is the right to bear arms for protecting one's safety and personal property.
"Do you want to be the one that's lesser armed than yourself? I just feel that's a bad way to think," said Pyle.
Wade Reall made the trip from Shippensburg. Holding an "I own an AK" sign, Reall agreed with Pyle's statements.
"Millions of people use guns to defend their lives of themselves and families every year in this country," said Reall. "The media does not show those actions taking place."
Referring to the same 2011 FBI Crime Report, private citizens accounted for 260 incidents of justifiable homicide in the United States. 201 of those incidents involved firearms including 153 handguns, 12 rifles, and 10 shotguns.
Around noon, Cease Fire PA held an anti-gun rally inside the East Rotunda. Members with the group were bused to Harrisburg from Philadelphia. State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) had a rebuttal for the protection argument.
"We're not saying you can't have guns…you just can't have a gun with a 100-bullet drum," said Leach. "You can't own a gun that has a 30 magazine clip or that you can shoot 1,100 rounds per minutes. That is not an infringement on the second amendment, the second amendment has nothing to do with this discussion."
A few pro-gun advocates attended the event and held up signs. Harrisburg and York recently were listed on the nation's ‘top 100 violent cities'. Respective mayors Linda Thompson and Kim Bracey voiced strong message in favor of gun reform.
"We are tired of the bloodshed in our communities," shouted Bracey. Thompson responded to a sign in the crowd that read, "Gun control is a false hope".
"It is not a false hope when you think that when mayors ban together that you are more powerful than us, and you are not," Thompson emphasized.
Both mayors are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group that has urged President Barack Obama to ban assault weapons shortly after the Shady Hook shooting in Newtown, Ct.
Anyone attending both rallies could see a clear divide. However, anyone attending both rallies could see there is room for common ground. Both sides cried for a deeper look into mental health issues and an impact on violent media. Both sides also took time to reflect with prayer.
With regards to the separation of church and state in American government, perhaps religious leaders could be the saving grace on the gun debate.
During the pro-gun rally State Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) said he would introduce a bill that would ban any state agency or law enforcement to accent a federal ban on assault weapons.
Next month, State Representative Ronald Waters (D-Philadelphia) is scheduled to hold a news conference to introduce a package of bills on gun control. Waters legislation would include banning "military-style assault weapons" among other reforms.
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