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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 6, 2019 03:06 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb
To: All House members
Subject: Reviving Our State Defense Force to Address Community Safety & Public Health
The Constitution of the United States requires under the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Our commonwealth deserves its own well-regulated militia to address the epidemic of gun violence, domestic terrorism, and other inter-related public health crises.

After the enactment of a federal law in 1940, Pennsylvania was among one of several states that established a regulated, trained and funded militia.

This state defense force — the Pennsylvania State Guard — operated from 1941 to 1953 that protected Pennsylvanians while honoring our state constitution which in Article I, Section 21 clearly states: “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.”

Now, more than ever, the Commonwealth should revive and modernize its state defense force toward complementing law enforcement agencies to improve public safety in these uncertain times.

If enacted into law, this force would provide voluntary firearms training for people not interested in applying for military-grade firearms. Further, this training would be mandatory for those members who did seek to own such firearms.

This defense force would answer to the Governor and oversight commission who, based on federal law, cannot call them up for regular military service, but can use them in emergency response in-state.

This reconstituted body would help protect public safety while balancing Second Amendment interests. Benefits of joining this body could include:

• Student debt relief
• Tuition assistance
• Financial assistance for first-time home buyers
• Merit points on civil service tests

Law enforcement officers are out-gunned, too over-burdened, under-compensated and under-trained to properly address the ever-expanding array of duties they’ve had to take on in recent years.

By recruiting and empowering our state’s breadth of talented souls, this overhauled defense force could train thousands of social workers, nurses, veterans, civil servants, college students and other private citizens to help mitigate the most pressing and costly concerns that currently represent some of our state’s top budget expenditures.

Too many lives have been lost to inertia. Our Commonwealth suffers from a community safety crisis whose symptoms degrade public health outcomes across the state.

It is our moral and constitutional responsibility to address a health crisis that is manifested in all manner of public and private life, including mass shootings, daily gunfire in city streets, domestic murder, and suicides in every corner of the state. Indeed, we, as state lawmakers, have a moral obligation to act.

Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB2957