It was hardly a surprise that the Pennsylvania House shot down last week's proposal to curb illegal gun trafficking, but when the votes were tallied, I was a bit baffled.

Scads of suburban Republicans stood up to their party and the National Rifle Association by supporting the plan to require gun owners to report lost or stolen weapons. This even though straw buying and the bloodshed that illegal guns cause is often derided as an "urban" problem.

But House Speaker Dennis O'Brien, a city guy with constituents in the line of fire, voted against a small step for gun sanity.

In saying no, O'Brien stood strangely alone. Every other Philadelphia lawmaker - Democrat and Republican - voted yes.

Even pols who doubted the proposal's power to curb gun violence opted to give it a chance.

"We have a big enough problem in Philly," said Republican John Taylor, "that I'll try anything."

The speaker disagreed, claiming after the vote that he feared "unintended consequences" if the "flawed" proposal became law.

"It's a difficult vote to explain why you're not for it," he admitted, "but the deficiencies were glaring."

Sorry, Denny, but the really glaring thing is how anyone could be against requiring owners of a product that can take a life to report its loss or theft just as they would any other item of value.

You'd call the cops if your car was stolen, wouldn't you? You'd file a report if the wife misplaced her wedding ring. Why not expect the same if a Glock goes missing?

Why no?

O'Brien and I haven't talked since we had words at a crime forum last year, but to his credit he e-mailed a detailed 763-word response explaining his decision.

"While it may have been politically expedient to 'go with the crowd' on this one," O'Brien wrote, "that has never been my style."

To him, making it a crime not to report a crime would "cast an overbroad net" ensnaring the innocent.

That, he couldn't stomach.

Also making the speaker a little sick? That gun-control groups like CeaseFirePA for the first time exercised as much muscle as the NRA.

"The group's real goal was not to get a solution, but merely to get a vote," O'Brien wrote. "After the amendment was rejected, they declared a victory in the simple fact of getting a recorded vote."

Well, why shouldn't the advocates crow? In Pennsylvania, when it comes to gun control, forcing officials to take a stand is success.

The real targets

Still struggling to comprehend the latest city-suburb divide, I called Rep. Kate Harper in Blue Bell. She voted for the lost-and-stolen amendment with 17 other suburban Republicans, but said she could see why O'Brien had refused.

"It's not like we have an epidemic of people losing their guns," Harper said. "If the real problem is a guy in North Philly claiming his gun was stolen only after it's used in a crime, focus on that."

Meaning if the lost-and-stolen effort is really about scaring people out of becoming straw buyers, then target them, not the little old lady who forgets to tell the cops she gave Grandpa's gun to her son.

After many revisions - and polls showing 100 percent of Harper's constituents support the idea - she signed on, comforted by the fact that gun owners would have to be cited repeatedly to face serious punishment.

"If you forget to report your gun lost or stolen three times, you are a felon," she said. "That doesn't happen to Grandma."

But O'Brien remained unmoved.

Rather, he'd prefer to focus on his yes votes on Harper's amendment to increase penalties for lying to cops about weapons and his own proposal to give prosecutors more time to nail rogue gun shops.

Fittingly, both fulfill the NRA's mantra to "enforce the laws we have" as opposed to passing pesky new gun-control legislation.

Quite a feat. Not that O'Brien would ever brag about it.