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Shapiro Rallies Bucks County Democratic Faithful on Election Day

Gov. Josh Shapiro visited Bucks County Tuesday morning to rally the Democratic Party troops on Election Day.

About 30 people, mostly party faithful and candidates, packed the conference room in state Sen. Steve Santarsiero’s Newtown office to hear Shapiro speak. Santarsiero is chair of the Bucks County Democratic Committee.

Shapiro urged them to get people to vote because of the importance of the state Supreme Court race, which pits Montgomery County President Judge Carolyn Carluccio, the Republican, against Superior Court Judge Dan McCaffrey, the Democrat.

“What we want in a justice is someone who cares very deeply about the law, who cares deeply about protecting our fundamental freedoms, and Justice Dan McCaffrey is going to do that,” said Shapiro. “And Bucks County can be the difference maker in that election. Take it from me. I’ve seen the difference Bucks County can make. Are we ready to make the difference?”

The group cheered in response.

Shapiro said he was happy to “be here in my second home” with his friend, Santarsiero. He introduced Bucks County Commissioners Bob Harvie and Diane Ellis-Marseglia, who are seeking a second term. They are running against Republican incumbent Gene DiGirolamo, who is also running for a second term, and Controller Pam Van Blunk.

Shapiro called Harvie and Marseglia “the team who not only knows how to win an election but knows how to govern all people of Bucks County, no matter what you look like, where you come from or who you love or who you pray to.”

Harvie thanked all the candidates and staffers who were helping them.

“Keep knocking on those doors, keep making phone calls, keep texting, keep annoying your friends and family,” he said. “We’re honored to be doing the work the governor has talked about to make this county better. We appreciate his help and support.”

Marseglia said she had run for office before but “never had the honor of the governor coming here. That shows how important this is.”

Shapiro then posed for pictures with various candidates.

Pat Poprik, Bucks County Republican chair, wasn’t worried about Shapiro’s visit to her political backyard.

“The voters in Bucks County are much more in tune with what’s happening in their local community and care about their local governments and are not going to be swayed by the visit from a governor or any other elected official.”

“I think they’re worried,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican consultant and CEO of Quantum Communications, about the Bucks Democrats. “Bringing Shapiro in on Election Day falls squarely in the ‘too little, too late’ category, though.”

Bucks County might be described as purple. While Democrats control the county commissioners board 2-1, the county is represented in Congress by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R).

“Bucks County is the suburban county most likely to flip today,” said Christopher Nicholas, president of Eagle Consulting Group. “The voter registration and performance are basically even-steven.”

Before he left Santarsiero’s office, the DVJournal asked Shapiro about his support for Harvie, given that there is an investigation into corruption in Falls Township and that Harvie had been called before a federal grand jury to testify. Harvie is the former long-time chairman of the Falls Township Board of Supervisors. Previously, Harvie denied that he was the target of a federal investigation.

“I don’t know anything about it,” said Shapiro. However, reports have said the state Attorney General’s Office was also involved in the multi-year investigation. Shapiro served as attorney general before he was elected governor last year.

Bucks County Dem Back With Another ‘Assault Weapons’ Ban Proposal

A Bucks County state senator wants to codify a ban on “assault weapons” in Pennsylvania law for the second time in less than 12 months.

Sen. Steve Santarsiero, along with Sen. John Kane (D-Delaware/Chester), wrote in a co-sponsorship memo last week they were planning “to introduce legislation that would enact an assault weapons ban in Pennsylvania.”

“Our bill would mirror language that is very similar to what was enacted in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which is considered to be some of the toughest in the nation,” the senators said.

Neither senator responded to queries seeking more information on the proposal, including whether or not the Democratic legislators expect any constitutional challenges to the bill at the state and federal levels. The measure, which is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, would ban “more than 150 gun models” as well as “the sale of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.”

Chris Dorr, director of the Pennsylvania Firearms Association, called the new bill a “straight-up effort to disarm their political opponents.”

“It is unconstitutional, it’s a violation of Pennsylvania’s constitution, and the Pennsylvania Firearms Association will aggressively prosecute supporters of this gun-grab in the court of public opinion in every election to come, especially Democrats in vulnerable districts,” he said.

This is Santarsiero’s second attempt in less than a year to pass a Pennslyvania “assault weapons” ban. Last year’s legislation died in the state Senate Judiciary Committee in June.

At the time, Santarsiero called access to so-called assault weapons “one of the greatest threats to the health and safety of Pennsylvanians.”

Adam Kraut, a Chester County native and director of the Second Amendment Foundation, told DVJournal that due to U.S. Supreme Court precedent, lawmakers in Pennsylvania would “have to dig into history” in order to justify the ban.

Kraut pointed to the 2022 Supreme Court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruenin which the high court held that any gun control passed in the U.S. must be “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”

“That’s the hurdle that the legislature is going to have the pass, by finding something in U.S. history that shows these types of firearms can, in fact, be restricted,” Kraut said.

The Pennsylvania Constitution is rare among U.S. state constitutions for having a gun ownership provision codified in the state charter since the country’s founding in 1776.

The state constitution declares citizens “have a right to bear arms for the defence [sic] of themselves and the state,” though courts have consistently permitted broad firearm regulations despite that provision.

“Assault weapons” are a popular target for lawmakers wishing to enact strict gun control regulations, though the precise definition of that class of firearms remains elusive.

Asked what guns fall under the label “assault weapon,” Jim Benoit, owner of Cajun Firearms in West Chester, said the vague term is often applied to “typically black, scary-looking rifles.”

“The definition varies state by state and seems to be a moving target,” he said. “Within the industry, the term is frowned upon, and instead, AR-15s are referred to as Modern Sporting Rifles.

“In many states, these rifles are used for hunting in addition to target/sport shooting and personal protection,” he added.

Kraut echoed that view, pointing to military guides that define “assault weapons” as those capable of fully automatic or burst-firing modes, both of which are rare among U.S. gun owners.

“I’ve never seen the gun industry refer to [sporting rifles] as ‘assault weapons,’” he said.

A 1994 federal ban on these weapons identified a broad class of brands and types of firearms with certain features, such as telescoping stocks and bayonet mounts. Santarsiero’s assault weapons ban contains similar provisions.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released in February found most Americans oppose a national ban on so-called “assault weapons.”


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PA Moderates Toomey, Fitzpatrick in the Midst of Gun Control Deal-Making

Washington lawmakers are forging ahead toward possible gun violence legislation, and two Pennsylvania Republicans are at the center of the effort.

A group of bipartisan lawmakers led by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey found common ground on gun control legislation that stands a chance of passing the Senate. Toomey (R-Pa.) told reporters 10 Republicans were “on board in principle” with a deal that could break through a GOP-led filibuster that stalled previous attempts.

“I do think it’s more likely than not that we will get something done in the Senate,” Toomey said last week.

Lawmakers involved in the negotiations said the measure provides “needed mental health resources, improves school safety and support for students, and helps ensure dangerous criminals and those who are adjudicated as mentally ill can’t purchase weapons.”

His comments came after the House passed a wide-ranging package of gun safety bills, called the Protecting Our Kids Act, in a 223-204 vote. It followed a tense hearing where victims of recent gun massacres across the U.S. urged lawmakers to take action.

The bills would raise the minimum age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, ban high-capacity magazines, require a registry for bump stocks, and tighten federal firearms regulations to apply to so-called “ghost guns,” which are manufactured without serial numbers by private citizens.

It would also create tax incentives for sales of safe storage devices and add criminal penalties for those who violate gun storage regulations at their residences.

Among the five Republicans voting for the package was Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks). He said that while the legislation was “far from perfect,” it was a “necessary step” to put pressure on the Senate to adopt a bipartisan proposal in the wake of mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, N.Y., and Tulsa, Okla.

Fitzpatrick said e supports Americans’ Second Amendment right to own guns but added there was “no higher responsibility” for lawmakers than protecting children from gun mayhem.

“Our policies should support responsible gun ownership. We must protect mentally healthy, law-abiding citizens’ right to protect and defend themselves, their families, their homes, and their communities, and we must also prevent mentally ill individuals and criminals from gaining access to firearms and causing harm to others. If we’re going to stop the violence plaguing our nation, we must all accept these basic premises,” he said.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action said the House package threatened to “turn millions of law-abiding gun owners into felons.”

“This unconstitutional legislation would extinguish law-abiding adults’ Second Amendment rights and contends that these individuals are responsible enough to defend their country or vote in an election, but cannot be trusted to follow the law,” the group wrote on its website.

The Toomey-backed legislation, still being debated among the bipartisan group of senators, doesn’t go as far as the House package. But it would provide for an enhanced review process for buyers under age 21 and penalties for straw purchases, CNN reported.

The review process would include an “investigative period to review juvenile and mental health records, including checks with state databases and local law enforcement.”

The proposal calls for support for crisis intervention and funding for school safety resources, a key point of contention among Republicans who accused Democrats of seizing on tragedies to push forward more restrictive gun laws.

Meanwhile, Delaware Valley Democrats at the state level are pushing for further gun restrictions. Sate Sen. Steven Santarsiero (D-Bucks) proposed legislation that would ban military-style weapons in the Keystone State.

He told reporters at a news conference in Lower Makefield Township that the measure was modeled after a 2013 Connecticut law that banned high-capacity magazines and provided a voluntary buyback program for gun owners.

“Military-style weapons have no place in civilian society,” Santarsiero said. “Easy access to assault weapons is one of the greatest threats to the health and safety of Pennsylvanians.”

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