Make Safety The Priority
Pittsburgh’s government stood up for its citizens’ safety last week and, in the process, cast into sharp relief the political cowardice that characterizes too many state lawmakers. Much as New Zealand’s government put people before guns by outlawing military-style semi-automatic weapons following the March 15 slaughter of 50 people at two mosques, the Pittsburgh City Council voted Wednesday to approve a package of gun-control bills in reaction to the Oct. 27 slaughter of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in the city. The Pittsburgh bills are not as comprehensive as New Zealand’s action. They would not outlaw ownership of semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 used in the synagogue slaughter, but would outlaw their use in the city for any purpose. The package also would outlaw use of armor-piercing ammunition and high-capacity magazines and would provide for the temporary seizure of weapons from people who are determined by courts to be a danger to themselves or others. Once the ordinances become law they are certain to be challenged by gun cultists on the erroneous claim that they inhibit the constitutional right to bear arms, but even more so under a wayward state law that precludes local governments from protecting their residents. State law precludes local governments from passing any gun control measure that exceeds the parameters in state law. For that reason, several council members voted against the measures — not because they oppose the city government’s efforts to better protect citizens but because they do not want to expose the government to the trouble and cost of legislation that it is likely to lose. But as Councilman Corey O’Connor put it: “It is the right fight to have and the right time to have this fight.” He and his colleagues, and other municipal governments around the state, should increase the pressure on state lawmakers to place Pennsylvanians’ safety above the prerogatives of their own benefactors in the gun lobby.