Just because Pennsylvania is fertile ground for the National Rifle Association doesn't mean that just anybody should be allowed to pack a pistol in the state.

The state, like many others, bars permits for "habitual drunkards" and anyone caught impersonating a police officer, stalking, or lying to authorities about a weapon. Surprisingly, some states have no such restrictions.

So here's the question: Which state's rules do the NRA's allies prefer to see applied nationwide?

Chalk one up for the boozers, stalkers, and fraudsters - and any others who might be a danger to society when carrying a loaded weapon.

While it's difficult to fathom the wisdom of such a policy, there are various proposals floating around Congress to do just that.

One Senate measure, misleadingly titled the "Respecting States Rights and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2009," effectively would lower the bar for a handgun permit to the rules used in the most permissive states.

If enacted, such a law would let handgun owners licensed out-of-state carry their pistols in Pennsylvania, even though they might be seen as a risk here. That permit also would have to be honored elsewhere, regardless of restrictions.

If nothing else, such policies contribute to the prevalence of handguns. In an open letter to Congress yesterday, the Pennsylvania coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns also argued that loosening permits would result in "further stacking the odds against police officers charged with keeping communities safe."

For states like New Jersey and New York that make it very difficult to obtain a gun-carrying permit, the one-size-fits-all approach would erode public safety if guns licensed out-of-state could be brought in at-will.

Handgun permit rules are a patchwork, but the variances reflect local concerns about safety. Curtailing states' prerogatives is the opposite of respecting states' rights.

It's bad enough that Congress this spring allowed gun-toting visitors into national parks. If anything, handgun-carrying laws should be tightened.

As gun-violence prevention groups note, the Senate has no business rushing in such a dangerous measure with backdoor moves. Yet that's just what might be happening with the bill, S.B. 845, which was tacked onto other legislation without a proper airing at a public hearing.

The tri-state region's Senate delegation should be united in opposition to any proposal along these lines - particularly the senior member, and newest Democrat, Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.). This is a chance to stand up against the threat of urban gun violence.