HARRISBURG – June 21, 2011 – Students from Reading High School’s “Project Peace” initiative joined CeaseFirePA this morning to deliver more than 4,000 petitions to Governor Corbett, asking that he reconsider his position on the HB40 – the deadly Castle Doctrine expansion, and VETO the bill. Both the PA House and Senate have now passed the bill and it awaits review by the Governor. The students and CeaseFirePA were denied an opportunity to meet with the Governor or a member of his staff.
The students involved with Project Peace, have organized themselves in reaction to the gun murders of six of their classmates in the last year alone. Kayla Scarbrough, a leader in Project Peace, explained why she made the trip to Harrisburg. “Kids in our city are under attack by gangs and criminals with guns,” said Kayla. “We’re young, and even we know that we can’t fix this problem until we find a way to get guns off the streets. The bill Governor Corbett is considering will bring more violence. We hope he considers stopping it.”
Current law in Pennsylvania allows for the use of deadly force in one’s own home, with no duty to retreat. Even in public spaces, if walking away is not a safe option, the use of deadly force is permissible. HB40, the Castle Doctrine expansion, will lower the standards defining when the use of deadly force is acceptable in public spaces – to include any situation in which one feels threatened – even if walking away might have been a safe alternative.
Despite warnings from the Pennsylvania law enforcement community that this expansion is “solution in search of a problem” the House passed the bill last April, and the Senate passed the bill yesterday. The delay in passage between the House and the Senate was not due to debate over merits or flaws of the bill – but rather it was stalled by political negotiation over which chamber of the legislature would get credit for the bill from the gun lobby.
“If the legislators voting in favor of this bill were focused on public safety,” said CeaseFirePA Executive Director Max Nacheman, “They would have taken the advice of Pennsylvania law enforcement, instead of the gun lobby. With gun homicide rates sky high across the Commonwealth, the last thing we need in Pennsylvania is a law that creates more situations when violence is okay. Instead our Governor and Legislature ought to focus their efforts on reducing gun violence by cracking down on criminals who use and traffic firearms illegally – terrorizing our communities. We have suggested reforms supported by law enforcement, such as Lost or Stolen, closing the Florida Loophole, and repairing the broken background check system.”
Despite arguments that the purpose of the bill was to protect citizens who use guns in self defense, proponents of the bill were unable to produce a single example of a Pennsylvania citizen who had been unfairly prosecuted for using deadly force in self defense. It was only in the final weeks of deliberation that the bill sponsor’s true intentions were made clear, when State Representative Scott Perry (R, York County) explained, “We must be able not only to hunt but to protect ourselves from an overbearing government that does not do the will of the people.” Perry’s remarks are reminiscent of recent insurrectionist philosophies that have lead to high profile shootings – in Pennsylvania and around the nation.