SUNBURY — Politicians representing the Valley vowed Wednesday to protect the right of citizens to own guns in light of President Obama’s sweeping executive and legislative proposals to help curb gun violence.
But while Pennsylvania’s U.S. senators, Democrat Bob Casey and Republican Pat Toomey, agreed they still needed to examine Obama’s ideas, Casey said he supported a ban on military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.
It is also critical, Casey said, that any proposal include increased funding for local law enforcement programs such as Community Oriented Policing Services, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants and Bulletproof Vest Partnerships, as well as measures to address mental health.
“I continue to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment,” Casey said, “and believe in the right of citizens to own guns for their own protection as well as for hunting, recreation and collection.”
Toomey said he was carefully reviewing Obama’s proposals.
“Second Amendment rights are important to many Pennsylvanians,” he said, “and must be protected, but there may be areas of agreement with the White House that can be addressed to improve public safety.”
He declined to identify those areas of agreement.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican, said: “President Obama’s gun control recommendations fall far short in addressing the real issue here — putting an end to gun violence. While the president did propose some reasonable measures, I’m disappointed, yet not surprised, to see so much emphasis on gun control and not enough on key contributors to mass shootings — mental illness and the impact of the entertainment industry’s glorification of violence.
“As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I take issue with the Obama administration’s effort to take more control of our lives on the gun issue, when we already have reasonable accommodations in place. We have seen time and time again, when law-abiding citizens have used their legal firearms as a means of self protection.
“Our government cannot stand in the way of that. I come from a state with a rich heritage of hunting and fishing, and will fight to protect our right to bear arms for the sake of the freedoms we cherish as a nation.”
House Representatives: Ideas won’t work
Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton, and Thomas Marino, R-10, Cogan Station, thought the president’s ideas would do little to stem violence.
“As a father and grandfather,” Barletta said, “I understand the obligation we have to protect our children and our communities. I also believe that the rights of law-abiding citizens to purchase, possess and use firearms is entirely consistent with that obligation.
“We must come together as a country, seek out solutions that work toward preventing these horrific crimes, and give thorough and thoughtful review of proposals that address this issue within the confines of the United States Constitution.”
Marino, a former federal prosecutor, said: “I do not support the implementation of additional regulations on firearms at the expense of law-abiding citizens. The president’s most recent proposal will do little to curb future acts of violence and will do nothing to deal with the fundamental issues at hand, including addressing school security, mental health and the extreme pervasiveness of violence in our society’s culture and media.”
Connecticut gun laws, Marino said, are some of the most aggressive and restrictive in the nation, but that still did not prevent Adam Lanza from illegally obtaining firearms from his mother, a lawful gun owner.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues as we search for solutions that will prevent these tragedies in the future,” he said. “But I will not stand by as this administration attempts to infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed rights of lawful gun owners.”
Preserve owner: A difficult issue
Mike Martz, owner of Martz’ Gap View Hunting Preserve, Dalmatia, agreed that something had to be done to curb the kind of violence seen at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where Lanza on Dec. 14 shot and killed 20 school children and six adults.
“It’s a hard issue,” Martz said. “But banning guns of any kind is not the answer. I don’t think gun control will stop evil from happening.”
Martz opposes any kind of gun control.
“If the government can take away assault rifles, what will be next?” he asked.
But the outcry over assault weapons is having its effect elsewhere.
One of the largest expos in Pennsylvania is the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, held Feb. 2-10 in Harrisburg at the Farm Show Complex.
The show, which features vendors selling firearms, is a unique celebration of the authentic hunting and fishing traditions cherished by millions of Americans and their families.
“As a hunting-focused event,” said company spokesman Deb Davis. “We welcome exhibitors who wish to showcase products and firearms that serve the traditional needs of the sport. Clearly, we strongly support the Second Amendment. However, this year we have made the decision not to include certain products that in the current climate may attract negative attention that would distract from the strong focus on hunting and fishing at this family-oriented event and possibly disrupt the broader positive experience of our guests.”
Those weapons include military style assault weapons.