In government as in ordinary life, there is a right way to do things, and there is a wrong way.

Two different bills now before the Pennsylvania Legislature illustrate the difference between living in a free country and, however benevolent, living in a dictatorship. Both ideas are sound. The difference is in the degree of “Big Brother” control.

The right way: This bill would permit, but not require, local governments to increase the pittance now paid to mayors, council members, etc. The bill also contains sensible caveats. Pay could be on a per-meeting basis, penalizing unexcused no-shows. Increases must be voted on in open meetings, and cannot take effect until after incumbents have stood for re-election. State Sen. Scott Martin, R-Lancaster, the bills’ main sponsor, “gets it.” The state says, “You can, but you decide.”

The wrong way: This bill would have the entire state ban the carrying of guns, knives and other dangerous weapons in public parks and recreation facilities. State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia is understandably outraged at multiple shootings in Philadelphia area parks, including one at a cookout in a South Philly park when six people were shot.

Hello, flea. Here is sledgehammer.

Six people shot is awful. But this happened in Philadelphia. Hereabouts, we even allow hunting in some state, county and local-government parks, to control the deer populations. The bill makes no distinction between shoot-’em-out large cities and our less bloodthirsty rural areas.

The bill should simply authorize Philadelphia (which is both a city and a county) and other local governments to ban guns in parks owned by those governments if they choose to do so — but leave it up to each local government to do so, after full debate, with a “sunset” provision to force five-year review, etc.

The slogan, “That government is best which governs least” from iconic writer Henry David Thoreau still resonates after nearly 200 years.

Both of these issues are important. Both affect local residents directly. Some local elected officials should get more money for their work. Some public places might require gun bans — but if there is nowhere to bear arms, the Second Amendment becomes a worthless scrap of paper. That decision is best made locally.

The Legislature’s approach should be regulatory but not prohibitive.

Let local governments govern locally.

— Denny Bonavita

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