I watched an inspiring broadcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network, the Jan. 23 rally at the State Capitol by CeaseFire PA top brass, members, and its supporters, including a number of members of the General Assembly. This grass-roots organization seeks to make it more difficult for the homicidal to perpetrate mass murder and maiming by enacting universal background checks for those that wish to purchase firearms and restricting the purchase of the most lethal weapons, those designed to kill multiple human beings within seconds.
There were many compelling speakers at this event, but none more moving and effective than the relatives of those who have been slain in the gun homicide epidemic. Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin spoke of how at the tender age of 13 he watched helplessly as his father was slaughtered in the street by an individual wielding a machine gun with the ability to spray 100 bullets within seconds. Mary Beth Hacke, accompanied by her young daughter, told of her precious 14-month-old son Ryan being mortally wounded through a bullet to the eye as she and her family were purchasing gasoline at a Homestead service station in 1997, the boy an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of hoodlums. Other grieving mothers spoke of the gunshot deaths of their young sons and their untimely passing.
Philadelphia State Senator Daylin Leach sought to dispel the fallacy advanced by the National Rifle Association/gun manufacturers’ lobby: that liberal “gun grabbers” are driven to take away all guns. He also accurately asserted that with every right comes responsibility, that there are limits to First Amendment free speech rights (one may not yell “fire” in a crowded theater if there is not a fire, one may not libel another or engage in false advertising) just as there are to Second Amendment rights.
CeaseFire and its many admirers will have a battle royale on their hands in seeking to pass any legislation to address the gun menace. This, after all, is a state in which veteran Representative Daryl Metcalfe has sponsored a bill which would allow a felony charge against any elected official seeking to enforce new federal firearms legislation. Perhaps the next action by Representative Metcalfe will be to propose that new federal gun legislation prompt secession or civil war; nothing would surprise me.
There will never be effective action to address the gun homicide epidemic so long as a large swath of society accepts the slaughter of innocents as the price we must pay to maintain an absolute right to amass an arsenal of the most lethal weapons.