House Dems propose tougher gun laws, GOP shoots 'em down - abc27 WHTM

House Dems propose tougher gun laws, GOP shoots 'em down

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The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School was nearly two months ago and miles away in Connecticut, but in Harrisburg Wednesday it was motivation for a trio of House Democrats who announced a package of tougher gun legislation.

They referenced the mass shooting of school children at least 10 times.

"What happened with Sandy Hook was like the straw that broke the camel's back," said Rep. Ron Waters, D-Philadelphia.

The lawmakers spotlighted six bills. One, House Bill 522, would require safety locks with all gun purchases. Another, House Bill 520, would mandate that judges impose a two-year mandatory sentence on anyone convicted of carrying a firearm without a license. A third, House Bill 521, would force gun owners to have liability insurance.

Then, there were more controversial measures. House Bill 518 would roll back the recently passed expansion of the Castle Doctrine. It would require gun owners, outside their homes, to retreat if possible before using deadly force. House Bill 517 would ban certain military-style assault weapons and more.

"We also want to talk about the amount of ammunition you can put in the clip in the first place," Waters said.

House Democratic policy chair Dan Frankel of Pittsburgh acknowledged such bills are a tough sell in the pro-gun Pennsylvania Legislature, but said a conversation needs to take place.

"Responsible gun legislation is part of the fabric of solving the problem of violence in our communities," Frankel said. "You can't take it off the table."

But to many in the GOP, which controls the General Assembly, the measures will never get on the table.

"We're not gonna do that," said Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm not supporting any changes or any new gun laws."

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County, one of the House's most conservative members, was asked about the chances, on a scale of one-to-ten, of the bills moving.

"Zero," he said.

In fact, Metcalfe added with gusto, that he's going the opposite direction. His legislation, House Bill 357 (yes, it's numbered after a .357 magnum), would exempt Pennsylvanians from any gun restrictions passed by Congress in the wake of Sandy Hook.

"We're drawing a line in the sand for the federal government and saying 'we are not going to allow you to violate the rights of our citizens.' These are God-given rights," he said.

House freshman Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery, insists lawmakers must, and can, act.

"We believe there's a middle ground where you say we honor your gun rights but we can do something to reduce gun violence responsibly," Dean said.

But, again, she's a newbie. Dean will no doubt soon learn that on the issue of guns, in Harrisburg, middle ground is hard to find.

"We don't want to be dismissed," Dean said. "We don't want to be bogged down in the 'you're trying to take my guns away' argument."

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