Misfire in Harrisburg

Three out of four state House members this week turned their backs on Pennsylvanians whose safety is threatened by the Florida gun loophole. Worse still, the bipartisan majority instead expanded gun owners’ rights to blast away at anyone if they feel threatened outside their home or even in their car.

The House changes to the so-called castle doctrine mean that armed individuals will have an absolute right to defend themselves beyond their home, as current law limits. Just imagine how that might escalate road-rage incidents into deadly confrontation, with shooters then claiming self-defense. Even a front-porch encounter between an armed homeowner and a persistent door-to-door solicitor could see lead fly.

“Someone can claim self-defense if they shoot someone who looks at them the wrong way,” warns Edward Marsico, the Dauphin County District Attorney and spokesman for state prosecutors. “You are encouraging someone to potentially take a life.”

This issue can’t be the most pressing one before lawmakers as they race out of town. The only urgency is that the National Rifle Association apparently decided this was the moment to weaken the state’s already lax gun laws.

Before expanding the castle doctrine, House members cut off debate on closing the loophole that allows Pennsylvanians to obtain out-of-state gun permits from Florida and other states even if denied a license by local authorities. One such gun owner who acquired a Florida permit faces murder charges after a recent killing in Philadelphia.

Lawmakers need to close the loophole before more blood is shed. Shame on the Republican-run state Senate if, instead, it takes up the castle doctrine.