This past week, I met with my state representative, Joe Emrick (PA District 137). Local OFA members have been calling him for weeks about pending legislation on gun sales. After nearly a month of runaround, we were told we could meet Rep. Emrick in person, if we could get to his office in the next two hours.
Three of us arrived on time, if a little breathless, to have a chat about guns.
Despite our phone calls and emails, Emrick claimed to know nothing about HB 1010 (expansion of background checks to include long guns) or HB 1243 (prohibiting the private sales or transfer of guns) then proceeded to spew out a number of pro-gun talking points, informing us that background checks wouldn’t have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hooke and that laws are useless when a maniac decides to go on a rampage.
“If that’s true, why bother passing laws at all?” I asked, thinking he had chosen a strange profession if he thought laws were useless.
Emrick conceded I had a point by changing the subject.
In the wrap up, I made a simple observation. “I consider this to be a public health issue. Thirty thousand Americans die from gun violence every year and thirty thousand die of the flu. If we’re going to try and do something about flu, we should also try and do something about gun violence.”
Emrick looked at me and demanded, “How many of those deaths are due to gangbangers and inner city crime?”
“Are you asking me how many of those people were American citizens? Because I think it’s most of them and one person’s death shouldn’t matter less than another’s.”
Cue meltdown of Joe Emrick accusing me of calling him a bigot.
I’ve bumped into this NRA talking point before, what surprised me is that an elected official had no idea how offensive it is. Why should the death of someone in a poor neighborhood matter less than the death of a child at Sandy Hooke? The Coast Guard doesn’t discriminate when someone’s drowning. The fire department doesn’t do a house appraisal before rushing in to save a kid.
But this week, I found out that Joe Emrick does think about what kind of child he’s going to protect before he steps up to take a vote.