Protest, counter protest over gun bill

Accusations of disingenuousness and lying rang out when groups on opposing sides of a proposed gun bill met at state Rep. Stephen Barrar’s Concord Township office. And Barrar was in the middle of the fray.

At issue is HB 1010, a bill requiring background checks for people who buy long arms in a private sale, even when transferring a rifle or shotgun from one family member to another.

Members of Delaware County United protest stet Rep. Steven Barrar's decision to not cosponsor HB 1010.

Members of Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy protest stet Rep. Steven Barrar's decision to not cosponsor HB 1010.

Members of the group Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy planned the protest to confront Barrar on his refusal to cosponsor the bill. They were met with a roughly equal number of people on the other side of the issue, those thanking the representative from the 160th Legislative District for his opposition.

Delco United’s Terry Rumsey said the background checks will help keep weapons out of the hands of criminals, but Barrar disagreed.

“I think before we infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights, we should make sure the legislation we pass is going to do what we say it’s going to do,” Barrar said. “I don’t see where just a background check protects us from criminals who intend to do us harm.”

He said felons are already prohibited from not only buying firearms, but that it’s against the law for them to even try to buy a weapon. The problem, he said, was that when a convicted felon gets caught trying to buy a weapon they are not prosecuted, as they should be.

Rumsey countered by saying that the background checks do at least keep guns out of their hands.

“You are aware that the current Pennsylvania background check has captured more than 10,000 people with criminal backgrounds who did not get access to guns?” Rumsey asked.

Barrar responded by saying that history shows criminals will get guns no matter what.

“One of the reasons I didn’t want to meet with you first is that you have a problem with facts and figures,” Barrar charged, then read from a letter Rumsey had written: “’The other legislators who signed on to this weren’t

Counter protestors thank Barrar for his stance.

Counter protestors thank Barrar for his stance.

bought by financial contributions or political endorsements from the gun manufacture lobby.’ How much money have I taken from the NRA or the gun manufacturing lobby,” Barrar asked.

Rumsey responded by saying “none that I know of.”

A heated exchange followed with Rumsey accusing Barrar of not letting him talk and Barrar saying he wasn’t going to let Rumsey lie.

Both factions started talking and shouting with charges from each that the other was cherry picking facts and data.

In a separate interview before Barrar come out to the crowd, Rumsey, from Media, said his group is after what they believe is a sensible gun policy.

“We want to make sure that people’s Second Amendment rights are protected but, at the same time, the lives of our children and members of our community are protected,” he said. “We think that sensible and practical regulations on guns can protect the Second Amendment and make us all safer.”

Background checks are currently required for firearm sales through a dealer, but the buyer in a private sale has been exempt.

“This is the one loophole that would allow a criminal or a terrorist to go and buy weapons and escape a background check,” Rumsey said.

Echoing Rumsey was Matt Horwitz from Concord Township. A nod from Barrar would help move the bill forward, he said.

On the other side of the issue was Roger Howard from East Marlborough Township. For Howard, who is seeking the Republican Party nomination for state representative in the 158th Legislative District, it’s all about keeping crime down through the guaranteed right to keep and bear arms.

“I’m here to support the right to own a weapon and not have that right restricted. We already have about 130 pages of laws governing gun ownership in Pennsylvania. What we know is the cities and states with the most restrictive gun laws have the most gun crime. Chicago would be a great example,” he said. “We also know the states with the greatest gun ownership per capita have the least gun crime.”

Barrar has introduce HB 1936 that would require the state police to send information on the denial of a firearms application to the attorney general for prosecution when convicted felons attempt to buy a gun.

HB 1010 was sponsored by state Rep. Steven J. Santarsiero, D- 31, of Yardley.

In a memo, Santarsiero said: “Currently, the Crimes Code requires firearm sales be conducted in front of a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer, or county sheriff. However, this provision is only applicable to short-barreled firearms.  My legislation would remove this applicability provision and require all firearm sales, regardless of the barrel length, be conducted in front of a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer, or county sheriff.  Ultimately, this legislation would require background checks be conducted for each firearm purchase, which will ensure that individuals attempting to obtain a firearm are authorized to possess such weapons.” (Emphasis in original memo, which can be found here.)

Barrar is the only state representative of 11 with districts in Delaware County who has not signed on. The other 10 are equally split with five Democrats and five Republicans.

The five Democrats are state Reps. Margo Davidson, D-164, of Upper Darby, Maria Donatucci D-185, of Philadelphia, Thaddeus Kirkland, D-159, of Chester, Greg Vitali, D-166, of Haverford, and Ronald Waters, D-191, of Philadelphia.

Republicans include state Reps. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, Joe Hackett, R-161, of Ridley Township, Tom Killion, R-168, of Middletown, Nick Miccarelli, R-162, of Ridley Park, and Nick Micozzie, R-163, of Upper Darby.

Barrar said HB 1010 isn’t needed if current laws are enforced properly and that he’s been told it will never fly.

He added that cosponsoring a bill doesn’t mean the cosponsor is going to vote for it, that many times it’s just a way to look good in case it does become law.

Top photo: State Rep.Stephen Barrar, amid protestors for and against HB 1010, outside his Concord Township office. Holding the sign calling for background checks is Terry Rumsey of Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy. The two had harsh words during the protest.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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