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EDITORIAL - Asides for April 26, 2009

Written by Susan Mannella on .

STATE REP. Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican from Cranberry, has made a career of routinely seizing on wrong-headed and ultimately destructive initiatives. As more thoughtful people in Pittsburgh still mourned the three city police officers killed by a gun nut armed with an AK-47 and other weapons, he gathered without shame on Tuesday with other Second Amendment absolutists in the Capitol rotunda for the fourth "Right to Keep and Bear Arms" rally. The timing of the rally he organized was horrible and so was its message. Mr. Metcalfe said gun owners in the state "will never tolerate the enactment of any gun control measure that leaves law-abiding citizens disarmed and defenseless against violent intruders. ..." Of course, this is not what anybody suggests - just some common-sense measures that would not harm the fundamental rights of law-abiding citizens. But Mr. Metcalfe and his pals stand ready to shoot holes in anything remotely reasonable; he pledged to introduce legislation to deter municipalities from enacting local laws regulating guns.

IT WAS ON, then it was off, and now it's back on again - and that's good for voters in the city of Pittsburgh. Originally, three televised debates in the mayoral race were to be held in advance of the May 19 primary, but the KDKA-TV debate scheduled for April 15 was called off - leaving just two debates, an outrageous state of affairs, as we said in an editorial. Fortunately, something has been worked out. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will join his Democratic opponents, City Councilman Patrick Dowd and attorney Carmen Robinson, in a debate to be taped at KDKA on April 30 and aired on May 2. Last Monday night, the trio took part in their first debate, at WTAE-TV. It was a lively and interesting affair, providing proof of the value of such forums. Politicians need to be held accountable for their opinions by a demanding electorate. You only need to look to Cranberry to see what happens when voters give a public official the feeling of too much job security.

THE GAG ORDER imposed by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning on those involved with the case of Richard Poplawski, who is charged in the killing of the three city police officers in Stanton Heights on April 4, was a mistake in our view - and last week showed what a slippery slope this was. Defense attorney Lisa Middleman filed a motion that argued District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and his spokesman Mike Manko had violated the gag order when they discussed why they intended to seek the death penalty against her client - something the public deserved to know. She implausibly argued that the DA and his aide could sway potential jurors toward a death sentence by saying that aggravating factors existed to justify the penalty with no mitigating factors. Fortunately, Judge David R. Cashman was wise enough to deny the motion, saying that Mr. Zappala and Mr. Manko, did "nothing more than describe where we are in the case." He also did not agree with Ms. Middlemen's contention that media interviews with family members of the slain police officers were improper. A fair trial for the accused is important, but that can be done without chilling free speech. In a democracy, the people need to be kept informed.

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