The Pennsylvania State Police wants to shut down an important part of its computer system over the Labor Day Weekend and possibly into the first week of September.
The problem with taking the Pennsylvania Instant Check System (PICS) offline is that nobody in the state will be allowed to buy guns (legally that is) because background checks can't be performed. That includes shotguns and rifles used by the state's many hunters.
Outdoor enthusiasts and gun dealers are up in arms over the planned shutdown and they are letting their elected representatives know about it.
In turn, the politicians are putting pressure on State Police Commissioner Col. Jeffrey Miller to reconsider his decision on the timing of the shutdown.
House Majority leader Bill DeWeese and Rep. Ed Staback, D-50th Dist., who is chairman of Game and Fisheries Committee, sent a letter today to Miller.
Here are some highlights:
"The beginning of September is a bad time to shut down PICS. For hunters, dove season begins at the start of September. Each year, dove season serves as an introduction to the hunting experience for countless new license buyers. Shotgun purchases during this time of year reflect the eagerness that these new hunters enter into their sport. Also, the more experienced hunters seeking to upgrade equipment at the outset of the year's firearm season will be turned away. Whether for dove or the other seasons that closely follow, the beginning of September is an established commencement to the state's hunting year."
And let's not forget about the gun dealers:
"Because of the importance of the first week in September, including the Labor Day weekend, gun retailers historically rely on this period to run promotions to encourage buyers. One large retailer, Bass Pro Shops, uses this time to hold their Fall Hunting Classic. The impact of the unavailability of PICS to Bass Pro Shop, and to the other establishments with whom they compete, is obvious."
The computer upgrade will require that PICS be offline for several days, but DeWeese and Staback argue that Miller could have picked a better time to pull the plug.
"A better span of days can be found by utilizing the extensive records of gun sales during previous years along with a general recognition of the scheduled state firearm hunting seasons. Several suggestions for a better time period for a shutdown have been made in recent days. By working with input from affected interested parties, the plans for PICS can be fulfilled with much less inconvenience to gun buyers and to retailers."
The lawmakers want to meet with Miller ASAP to find a more suitable time to shut down the computer system.
Miller is already in hot water with lawmakers because of the State Police's mishandling of the Valentine's Day ice storm on Interstate 78. He needs all the friends he can get in the Legislature.
Lawmakers also took Col. Miller to the woodshed when he proposed closing many state police barracks after 5 p.m.
Better clear your schedule, colonel, and set up a meeting with DeWeese and Staback pronto. You don't want to piss off the people who decide how much money your agency gets next year.