HARRISBURG (KDKA) – It seems like the issue of gun rights and gun control have gone on for decades in Pennsylvania without much changing.
KDKA asked political editor Jon Delano to take a closer look at the politics of guns in this Commonwealth.READ MORE: Charges Dismissed Against Pittsburgh Animal Control Officer Accused Of Severely Injuring Dog
Many in this region grew up hunting. Others know guns from military services. And thousands more own guns for protection and sport.
Then there is this political reality: “Pennsylvania still has, I believe, the largest number of NRA members of any state in the country,” says Mike DeVanney, a Republican political strategist.
Politically, it adds up to a pro-gun rights majority in the Republican-controlled legislature in Harrisburg, say Democrats.
“There are a number of extreme groups that have pushed candidates on the Republican side where they will not consider even basic expansion of background checks to make sure guns stay out of the hands of criminals,” says Mike Mikus, a Democratic political strategist.
“The politics of gun violence prevention are challenging. I won’t sugarcoat it for you,” says Josh Fleitman, western Pennsylvania manager for CeaseFirePA.
CeaseFirePA is a group that lobbies for stronger gun control measures, and Fleitman is optimistic but observes, “Gun violence and guns have become yet another front on the culture wars.”READ MORE: Pennsylvania Ready For Booster Shots Once Feds Give OK, Acting Health Secretary Says
Meaning, he says, opponents stoke fear that someone is going to take their firearms.
But limitations on gun rights is exactly what worries Kim Stolfer with the Firearms Owners against Crime.
“The legislators in the Pennsylvania House and the Pennsylvania Senate who have not supported gun control have done so based on three basic pillars,” says Stolfer.
“One, it’s a violation of the constitutional rights of all citizens. Two, the facts don’t support gun control whatsoever. And three, we’re not doing a good job and they recognize that of holding criminals accountable.”
Political strategists in both parties say right now, at least, gun issues motivate Republicans more than Democrats.
“I think there are more voters that support the Second Amendment in Pennsylvania than support gun control,” says Republican DeVanney.
“For a lot of voters, it’s not a motivator. And that’s always been one of the challenges that Democrats have had on this issue,” notes Democrat Mikus.MORE NEWS: At Least 1 Dead After 2-Vehicle Crash In Westmoreland County
Now it’s not always party-line. Analysts say some suburban Republicans favor gun safety measures while some rural Democrats tend to oppose, which makes this all a complicated issue.