Judging from the refusal of top Pennsylvania Republicans to entertain tougher gun-violence measures, news must travel slowly to Harrisburg. State legislators in the capital seem a million miles from grief-stricken Newtown, Conn., scene of the mass murder of schoolchildren on Friday.
"Gun control is not going to stop madmen," says Gov. Corbett through a spokesman.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), who heads the House state government committee, vows that he won't "allow the left to use this horrific act to advance their gun-grabbing agenda."
Fortunately, elected leaders in Washington, and other states, seem to be better in touch with the national mood. They are showing welcome signs that it might be possible to take action to reduce opportunities for the deadly mass shootings that have bloodstained the very innocence of childhood.
President Obama has asked Vice President Biden to coordinate efforts to curb gun violence in the wake of the school shootings that claimed the lives of 20 first graders and six adults. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey is on Biden's panel. Among the moves under consideration are reinstating a ban on assault weapons, reinstituting a needed ban on large-capacity ammunition clips, and taking more steps to keep weapons from the mentally ill.
Clearly, the most sweeping change must come from Washington. But Corbett and his legislative colleagues will need to get in step to safeguard Pennsylvanians.
The governor says he wants to focus on school safety. Nothing wrong with that. Yet the resistance to additional gun measures belies recent progress made by legislators and Corbett in combating the handgun trafficking that plagues Philadelphia and other cities across the commonwealth.
In a rare move, for instance, legislators recently set a minimum five-year jail term for straw buyers who supply guns to felons.
A natural companion measure that Corbett could get behind would be the proposed penalty for gun owners who fail to report a lost or stolen weapon, which is viewed by law enforcement officials as a useful tool to target traffickers. Beyond that, the state could thwart the trade in crime weapons by limiting handgun buyers to one a month.
Legislation isn't even needed for Harrisburg officials to take the administrative steps needed to see that data are fed into the national background-check system on those Pennsylvanians judged by the courts to suffer from a mental illness, which would prevent them from acquiring weapons under federal rules. Similarly, Corbett should make sure that state residents who are refused concealed-carry permits by their communities can't acquire handguns by using out-of-state permits.