- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Pennsylvania state representative who fended off a mugging by pulling out his own gun is drawing mixed reactions, with some people praising him as a folk hero and others demanding to know why he didn’t dial 9-1-1 instead.

Rep. Marty Flynn, a Democrat from Lackawanna County, is being called everything from courageous to an “idiot” for pulling out his licensed handgun and trading shots with a gun-wielding teenage robber on the streets of Harrisburg last week.

“Finally one politician with some BALLS!” wrote a supporter on Mr. Flynn’s Facebook page.

“I’m proud to have someone of your courage and character representing our district!!” wrote Mark Stanko, a resident of the Scranton area.

Others condemned the legislator’s actions.

“Idiot — risking the lives of yourself, your companion and those around you,” one man wrote to Mr. Flynn. “You don’t get to take the law into your obviously incapable hands. It’s stupidity like this that gets people killed.”

Another critic said, “Mr. Flynn, why didn’t you just call 911?”

Harrisburg police said Mr. Flynn acted appropriately when he and a colleague, Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, Erie Democrat, were walking back from a dinner on Oct. 14 to a home they share in the state capital while on legislative business. A teen confronted them around 11 p.m. and pulled a gun, demanding their wallets.

When the robber pointed his gun at Mr. Bizzarro’s head, Mr. Flynn said, he drew his own firearm, a Smith & Wesson Bodyguard 380 pistol. He fired.

“At that moment he saw that I pulled the gun. It was like he shot at Bizzarro, I shot at him, [and then] I shot at him again,” Mr. Flynn told reporters. “It was just like a blur to me. It was so quick.”

Nobody was hit in the shootout. The robber fled but was apprehended quickly by city police, along with three other teens accused as accomplices. Two of the suspects are age 17, and two are 15; all of them are charged as adults.

Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter said the suspects were the same people who committed a robbery one night earlier at an intersection in front of the main entrance to the state Capitol building. The victims of that crime were three employees of the House Republican Campaign Committee.

Mr. Flynn is licensed to carry the pistol, which he keeps holstered in the small of his back. While he didn’t respond to a request for an interview, he appears to be embracing the role of a hero, posing for a photo at his local barbershop while holding a sign proclaiming “Warning: Protected by Second Amendment Security,” as the employees proudly display their firearms.

The photo was quickly taken down from the Facebook page of the establishment, the Loyalty Barbershop & Shave Parlor in Archbald, Pennsylvania, and the owner didn’t return a phone message.

Mr. Flynn is a former corrections officer and a mixed martial arts fighter who also was a professional boxer for 10 years.

At the time of the robbery, a person close to the legislator said Mr. Flynn was mindful of an incident in May in which a teen murdered a taxi driver in Scranton, allegedly for the slightest of motives: The teen passenger felt the driver was taking him on a longer route than he’d requested.

The 16-year-old suspect in that case told police he shot the cab driver because, “I just told him take this way. He didn’t want to listen. He got his [expletive] shot.”

One of Mr. Flynn’s defenders railed at “the absolute lunatic suggestions that he should have called police first.”

“These are not boy scouts selling popcorn,” the man said on Facebook. “They have ZERO respect for life, and if not stopped would eventually have shot someone.”

Meanwhile, gun rights advocates and gun control activists are trying to sort out where Mr. Flynn stands on the Second Amendment.

The writers of a gun rights blog in Pennsylvania noted that Mr. Flynn didn’t return a National Rifle Association questionnaire in 2012 when he first ran for office. But he did vote with Republicans on two gun bills this fall, voting against extending background checks to the private sale of long guns and voting in favor of an amendment that would give groups like the National Rifle Association standing in court to sue municipalities that enact their own gun laws.

The state Senate approved the latter measure last week over the objections of most Democrats.

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