Gun factions line up their Pennsylvania protests

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HARRISBURG -- Standing quietly at Saturday's gun-rights rally here was Sheila Martin, who listened to speeches on opposing tougher firearm laws while she held a sign stating that gun control leads to unnecessary deaths.

The 26-year-old from Lancaster County, clad in a black Harley-Davidson jacket and earrings, said she came to the rally -- which was among a series of demonstrations across the country Saturday -- because she is a proud gun owner who believes that her constitutional right to bear arms is "under direct attack."

"I see a lot of the people in government who I think are trying to do away with the Second Amendment, do away with our rights, and that is wrong," Ms. Martin said. "If we do not speak up now, we will lose it."

That message will be heard again at the state Capitol on Wednesday, when the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association will be holding an event to counter a demonstration by CeaseFirePA, which is advocating for new gun-control measures.

Organizers with CeaseFirePA list a handful of policy goals they'll be seeking on the state and federal level, where the debate over regulating firearms has reignited since the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"I think Sandy Hook changed things," said Shira Goodman, CeaseFirePA's executive director. "People said, 'How did we get here?' I think it's gotten people woken up to the toll it's taking."

Requiring background checks for all private gun sales and mandating the reporting of lost or stolen guns are among CeaseFirePA's goals.

The group also is pushing to close a loophole that allows Pennsylvanians denied a gun permit here to seek one out of state, as well as for a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, which Ms. Goodman acknowledged would be a "tough lift."

"A 50-state solution may be more effective, but people want to have that conversation here," she said.

Ms. Goodman said buses will bring some attendees from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for Wednesday's noontime event. Speakers will include elected officials, teachers and survivors of gun violence.

Organizers with the Pennsylvania Firearm Owners Association did not return a message seeking information about their event. A forum thread on the group's website urged participants to act respectfully and to leave long guns at home "given the current emotional environment of the public."

Among those speaking at the gun-rights rally will be state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, who will be hosting his fifth "Right to Keep and Bear Arms" event in April.

In an interview Friday, Mr. Metcalfe said that while he does not believe additional gun-control measures will be approved at the state level, the national push for further regulations has made him and others uneasy.

"We've built a solid coalition of Second Amendment supporters," he said, pointing to last year's approval of a broadened law allowing for the use of deadly force against attackers as one example of that support.

"It's been strong since I came into the Legislature," he added. "Right now we're stronger than ever and will grow stronger still as we oppose the national efforts."

Mr. Metcalfe said he'll be introducing legislation this week that would prohibit the enforcement of any new federal gun measures, and would require the state to intercede on behalf of citizens against federal restrictions on firearm ownership.

electionspa - state

Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 1-717-787-4254.


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