When the Pennsylvania Legislature debated expanding the Castle Doctrine law last year, I and others warned it would carry dire consequences; innocent lives would be lost.
A thousand miles to our south in Florida, which enacted similar legislation in 2005 and allows people to carry guns with an out-of-state permit, we have seen the results of a law that encourages a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old armed with a package of Skittles and a container of iced tea, is dead. Reportedly, the young black man wearing a hoodie was tracked because he seemed out of place in a gated community. The shooter, 28-year-old community watch coordinator George Zimmerman, is free as he claims he shot Trayvon in self-defense.
We must never allow another state-sanctioned tragedy like this. Pennsylvania must revisit its Castle Doctrine law and take steps to get guns off our streets.
Prior to Gov. Tom Corbett signing the legislation into law last year, Pennsylvania allowed citizens the right to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders in their "castle" or home.
The new law allows the use of deadly force in other places, such as a car or public street, and does not require the person to retreat before shooting. I find it terrifying that we have enacted legislation that condones untrained civilians shooting someone in our streets. It's the wrong direction for Pennsylvania.
Instead, I believe the state should create a task force on gun violence and trafficking. The task force should be composed of law enforcement officials, including the Pennsylvania State Police, and would be tasked with investigating the use and transport of illegal guns and assault weapons across the state and developing measures to take them off the street.
We can also revisit some commonsense proposals made during the debate on expanding the Castle Doctrine law that were rejected by the Republican majority.
The proposals included legislation that would have required a missing firearm to be reported to police within three days; limited the purchase of handguns to one per month; required Pennsylvania residents to have a state license to carry; allowed Philadelphia to create an ordinance on assault weapons; banned assault weapons and closed a loophole in state law that allows people to carry guns with an out-of-state permit, even after being denied a gun permit in Pennsylvania.
Let's not let Trayvon Martin's death go in vain. Let's make some positive changes that will truly protect our citizens.
-- Ronald G. Waters rep resents the 191st Legislative District in portions of Dela ware and Philadelphia counties and serves as chairman of the Pennsylvania Legis lative Black Caucus.