Most people have seen the news about the tragic murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Florida, and his killer, George Zimmerman, who has dodged punishment for his crime by invoking Florida’s “Shoot First” law, which was drafted and lobbied for by the NRA. He never should have been allowed to carry a gun.
But there is another story that hasn’t been told: The same thing could happen right here in Pennsylvania.
Last June, our state government adopted Pennsylvania’s own “Shoot First” doctrine which changed the law in Pennsylvania to allow the use of deadly force, even if it isn’t absolutely necessary. The bill was written by the NRA, sponsored by the most extreme members of the legislature, and signed into law by Governor Corbett. That means a killer like George Zimmerman might be able to get away with murder right here in Pennsylvania, using the exact same excuse.
The similarities don’t stop there.
Trayvon’s killer was carrying his gun using a concealed carry permit issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture – despite a personal history of violence, including assaulting a law enforcement officer and domestic abuse. Shockingly, because Governor Corbett and the legislature have refused to close the “Florida Loophole,” Pennsylvania residents are allowed to carry a hidden gun in Pennsylvania, using a Florida permit – even if local Pennsylvania police have already said “No.”
If we don’t act now to correct these terrible mistakes, it is only a matter of time before Pennsylvania suffers a local tragedy similar to the murder of Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon just lost his life. Every year, 1,200 Pennsylvanians are shot and killed. How many more lives must be lost before our legislature does the right thing?
The shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida last month illustrates the dangers of lowering the standards for when the use of deadly force is acceptable. Trayvon's murderer, George Zimmerman, is still walking the streets after murdering an unarmed teenager because he claims he "felt threatened." That excuse isn't good enough.
The Florida Loophole is an obvious gap in Pennsylvania law, that lets the decision of a bureaucrat thousands of miles away undermine the experience and authority of local Pennsylvania law enforcement officers. If Florida gave a concealed carry permit to George Zimmerman, their standards are obviously weaker than our own. The Florida Department of Agriculture should not be putting Pennsylvania families at risk.
Communities across Pennsylvania are suffering from gun violence. The last thing we need is to give people an excuse to shoot somebody or a loophole to undermine the authority of Pennsylvania police.
Thank you for considering these important issues.