Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bill to recognize state firearm draws fire from Phila lawmakers

Bills recognizing the state's official flora and fauna, even the official cookie have stirred good natured debate in the past.

Bill to recognize state firearm draws fire from Phila lawmakers



Legislation to recognize the state's official flora and fauna, even the official cookie, have stirred good-natured debate in the past.  

A bill considered by the House Wednesday and originally intended to recognize the state aircraft likely wouldn't have gotten much pushback.

Until a lawmaker added an amendment to recognize the official Pennsylvania state firearm.

The bill, HB 1989, was drafted to honor the legendary Piper J3 Cub as the official state aircraft.

The single-engine plane, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, was manufactured in Lock Haven between 1937 and 1947. Originally intended for flight training, it went on to become one of the most popular planes of all time in both civilian and military use.

During World War II it was used a "hedgehopper" in combat, carrying personnel and supplies in war zones. Its affordability and simplicity for private use invoked comparisons to the Ford Model T.

There was no debate on the aircraft naming during the floor vote Wednesday.

But two dozen House Democrats, many from the Philadelphia or the surrounding suburbs were no votes on the bill.

Philadelphia Rep. Mark Cohen explained that it was the other state object that led to his oppositon. He said he couldn't vote for a bill that recognized the Pennsylvania long gun as the "state firearm."

"I have no objections to the long rifle as gun," he said. "I object to having an official gun because of the high rate of murder with guns in Philadelphia and elsewhere and inactivity of legislation on that subject."

He said naming a state firearm is one of few commercial products to have an endorsement that many people in Pennsylvania don't want it to have.

"Current citizens of Pennsylvania need help from legislation in protecting themselves against high crime, the widespread availability of guns," Cohen said. "The large number of guns...represents a real threat to cities and a high cost to taxpayers."

The bill describes the long rifle as the first firearm that was uniquely Pennsylvania, developed in the 18th century by Moravian craftsmen in Northampton County, home to the amendment's sponsor Rep. Marsha Hahn, a Republican.

The long rifle is known for both its technical design, which solidified its place in firearms history, and for the beauty of its craftsmanship.

House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said in most parts of Pennsylvania guns are recognized for what they do and are not used in a violent way. "It's part of the Pennsylvania culture."

The final vote was 173-24. The bill now goes to the Senate.

(Photo/Long guns/Christie's)


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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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