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Six years & four guns later ...

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

So, it turns out that alleged Pittsburgh cop shooter James Robert Hill is a recidivist illegal gun toter who benefited from a legal system that was out to lunch, kept cutting him slack and allowed him to wriggle away. How outrageous. And it goes to the heart of the current debate over more stringent gun-control laws.

Mr. Hill, 24, is accused of critically shooting one Pittsburgh police officer Thursday last and injuring another officer in a Homewood fight and firefight. Police were pursuing him for blowing a stop sign. Police, necessarily, returned the lethal force favor; Hill is hospitalized with gunshot wounds of his own.

But this is a shootout that never should have happened. And it wouldn't have happened had the legal system done its job.

Hill is no stranger to police or to the courts. As the Trib reported on Friday, he first was charged in October 2007 with illegally carrying a gun. Jailed for a month following his arrest, he was found not guilty by an Allegheny County Common Pleas judge 11 months later.

Four months after that, in January 2009, another arrest — resisting, assault, threats. Oh, and there was another gun.

Three months after that, while out on bond and awaiting trial, yet another arrest — more assault charges, more threats.

Four months later, in August 2009, a drug arrest. Oh, and another gun.

But that, of course, is not the end of the story.

Hill was supposed to be serving a 3-to-6-year prison term imposed by another Common Pleas judge in May 2010. He later ended up in a halfway house, which he walked away from a year ago.

Six years and four guns later, he tried to kill two cops.

“It's been a tough upbringing for him ... it's a tough environment for young people,” Milton Raiford, an attorney representing the family, told a reporter.

But obviously tougher for the criminal justice system to corral him.

What idiot decided that this irreformable criminal was worthy of rehabilitation and deserving of the halfway-house treatment?

And rest assured, this kind of garbage is not an isolated incident. Police all over the country, and for years, have been complaining about a criminal justice system that regularly serves up grave injustice involving hardened bad actors by repeatedly giving them passes for illegally having guns.

How many times are gun charges plea-dealed away?

How many more cops will be shot and/or killed by the beneficiary of such idiocy?

And what idiot or idiots will point, in warped fashion, to the James Robert Hill case as being representative of the need for more gun control? To what end — to treat the new laws with the same disdain, derision and bargaining-chip flippancy as the old laws and, in the process, further infringe on the law-abiding to exercise their Second Amendment rights?

In other bizarre gun war news ...

• Wythe Keever, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, says the teachers union doesn't “think it's in the best interests of public school safety to be arming educators or other school staff.”

So, the PSEA will be paying funeral expenses for educators, staff and children left as sitting ducks, right?

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or

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