With his veto of a bill that would allow Pennsylvania gun owners to shoot to kill if they felt threatened outside their home or car, Gov. Rendell has issued what amounts to a direct challenge to Gov.-elect Tom Corbett.
If the General Assembly returns next year with a similar proposal to expand the so-called "castle doctrine," the new governor will be faced with endorsing what Rendell calls a "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality that fails to "protect the sanctity of human life."
The misguided legislation that Rendell rightly vetoed over the weekend would expand a homeowner's right from being able to blast away at an intruder to shooting someone if threatened outside a home or vehicle.
More road-rage incidents could turn into deadly confrontations, with armed motorists claiming they were in danger.
The state district attorneys' professional association also fears that criminals would hide behind the castle doctrine to justify shootings involving drug dealing and other illegal activity.
Even for a National Rifle Association devotee such as Corbett, a broader castle doctrine could be seen as an unwelcome step toward transforming the state's highways and street corners into the Wild West.
As a former prosecutor, the governor-elect should be sympathetic to law enforcement officials who fear tragic consequences from the castle-doctrine change.
The issue isn't whether citizens should be able to defend themselves against a deadly threat inside their homes. Rendell supports that, but he and others are correct in saying that the expansion of the law amounts to a solution in search of a problem.
Maybe it was a barometer of the gun lobby's strength in the state that the governor - with only weeks left in his term - took time out Monday to explain his veto in greater detail in a conference call with reporters.
But it wasn't Rendell who made the wrong call. Rather, it was state lawmakers who tried to ram through this dangerous expansion of gun rights by cynically adding it to a bill closing loopholes in the Megan's Law statute on registration of sex offenders.
With thousands of deer hunters heading out to the woods this week, it's abundantly clear the state respects gun owners' rights. It's equally important, though, that elected leaders stand up for all Pennsylvanians' right to be free from gun violence.