Many gun-control bills have died in the halls of the Pennsylvania Capitol, rarely requiring a recorded vote. The popularity of hunting and the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association have taught legislative leaders not to bother, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. In an unusual move, Gov. Ed Rendell will testify tomorrow before the House Judiciary Committee to urge passage of three bills, including one – to limit handgun purchases to one a month – that has languished for a year. Despite Rendell’s gambit and a wave of gun crimes in Philadelphia and other cities, political pros say committee passage of the bills is iffy – and approval by the full House and the Senate even less likely.
“Rendell is fighting a series of political and cultural forces in this state,” said pollster Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College. Rendell asked, “How much will it take? What does the toll have to be before we do anything?” One Philadelphia officer has been killed and two wounded by gunmen since Nov. 9, when he proposed a mandatory 20-year sentence for shooting at a police officer. “This does not break down on partisan lines. It’s rural vs. urban, and Democrats have a strong rural base in the southwest and northeast,” Madonna said. Democratic consultant Larry Ceisler said, “The fact is legislative hearings in Harrisburg don’t usually make the 6 and 11 o’clock news, but this one will.” Said another consultant, ex-GOP legislator Jeff Coleman, “In the end, it won’t have the votes to pass. It will end up being a terrific fund-raising tool for Republicans in rural areas running for reelection, and it will do the same thing for Gov. Rendell in his attempts to widen the Democratic majority in the House.”