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Gun groups target Josh Shapiro for impeachment after ‘ghost guns’ story

Gun-rights groups are challenging Attorney General Shapiro's role in a NBC News report. Shapiro says their complaint has no merit.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro criticizes "ghost guns" a March 2021 news conference in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro criticizes "ghost guns" a March 2021 news conference in Philadelphia.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

A coalition of gun-rights groups, in a wobbly bit of political judo, is trying to get Pennsylvania’s General Assembly to investigate and impeach state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

He makes an enticing target. Shapiro, the only Democrat running for governor, has worked in office and on the campaign trail to regulate “ghost guns,” untraceable weapons assembled from parts.

It’s a high-profile topic, and the gun groups want to turn it against Shapiro, who visited the White House on Monday to watch President Joe Biden announce new federal regulations requiring serial numbers for guns made from kits, background checks for their buyers, and licenses for sellers.

The Gun Owners of America, 2nd Amendment Foundation, American Firearms Association, National Association for Gun Rights, and Pennsylvania Firearms Association accuse Shapiro and agents from his office of breaking state and federal laws by participating in a March NBC News story about ghost guns.

Shapiro called that “ludicrous on its face.”

For the story, a reporter used a hidden camera to purchase a ghost gun kit at a suburban Philadelphia gun show and later gave it to Shapiro’s agents, who assembled it and fired it at a range while being filmed.

What’s illegal about that? The gun groups, working on an assumption, claim Shapiro’s agents allowed the reporter to keep the gun and take it to New York. It’s illegal under federal law to give or sell a gun to a person from another state.

Shapiro said his office kept the gun and only his agents had access to it. The story was done to show “how easy it is to assemble a ghost gun.”

Val Finnell, state director of Gun Owners of America, isn’t buying it. But he offers no evidence to knock down what Shapiro said.

The groups sent letters to state House Speaker Bryan Cutler last week and on Monday, demanding “a formal investigation.” That was followed by a social media campaign, calling on supporters to pressure Cutler into action.

“We will not relent upon the speaker of the House until he refers this matter to an investigating committee, up to and including impeachment of the attorney general,” Finnell said.

Cutler, a Lancaster County Republican, wrote back Wednesday to say he is reviewing what the House can do. That includes referring the matter to the Government Oversight Committee, or to federal prosecutors, or creating a special investigative counsel. Cutler’s letter leans hard into the jurisdictional limitations placed on the House.

Who comes out on top here? Shapiro, who is fund-raising off his ghost gun efforts, gains more attention from the attack.

Johnny Doc steamrolls WURD

John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, the leader who built the electricians union in Philadelphia into one of the most powerful political organizations in the state, took to the air on WURD radio Thursday in an hour-long stream of consciousness.

Host Andrea Lawful Sanders could barely get a word in on her own show.

A federal jury in November convicted Dougherty and former City Councilmember Bobby Henon, finding the union leader effectively bought Henon’s vote on Council with a side job that came with a union salary. Henon is the former political director for Dougherty’s union, Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Dougherty, who quit his union job shortly after the verdict, said he hadn’t wanted Henon, first elected in 2011, to be a councilmember.

“I always thought he was the heir apparent at Local 98,” Dougherty said. “I was never a fan of him being in the political arena.”

Worth noting: Local 98 spent big and went hard for Henon’s election, putting union members on the streets and at polling places to drum up support.

Dougherty is set for a second federal trial in May, accused of threatening a contractor who employed his nephew in a job that prosecutors say the relative rarely showed up for. His third trial is scheduled for October on charges that he and other Local 98 officials embezzled more than $600,000 from the union.

Regarding the embezzlement charges, Dougherty said he ran “a multibillion-dollar business.”

“If I’m a crook, I’m the worst crook on Earth because I am leading this union with more money than any place around, probably more active cash than the City of Philadelphia has,” he said.

Parnell pushes back on Trump

Former President Donald Trump disrupted two Republican primaries this week, endorsing Mehmet Oz for U.S. Senate and issuing a stinging anti-endorsement for Bill McSwain’s bid for governor.

Sean Parnell, who has endorsed Dave McCormick for Senate, told AM 990′s Chris Stigall he was “baffled” by Trump’s nod to Oz.

Parnell won Trump’s endorsement in that primary but withdrew in November after a judge ruled against him in a custody battle that included allegations he had physically and verbally abused his wife and children.

“I think the president got this one wrong,” Parnell said Monday while knocking Oz for past comments on abortion, critical race theory, and the Black Lives Matter movement. “This guy is the antithesis of every position President Trump has taken.”

Speaking of mistakes, McCormick’s campaign ran a digital ad this week touting support from Parnell, calling him a “Congressman.” Parnell lost a 2020 bid for the U.S. House to Rep Conor Lamb, now a Democratic contender for the U.S. Senate.

A McCormick spokesperson said the ad was “quickly corrected.”

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