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PA Bill Number: SR377

Title: A Concurrent Resolution calling for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States via a Convention of the States, pursuant to Article V of ...

Description: A Concurrent Resolution calling for an amendment to the Constitution of the United States via a Convention of the States, pursuant to Article V of ...

Last Action: Referred to STATE GOVERNMENT

Last Action Date: Sep 17, 2020

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PA Anti-Gunners: Town hall on guns brings out supporters, opponents :: 08/22/2019

MORTON — People were quick to pull the trigger on their views about guns Tuesday night at a town hall discussion that brought together elected leaders and advocates in the latest talk on the hot button policy issue following two more high-profile mass shootings in the country this month.

gun- panel

State Sen. Tim Kearney, D-26 of Swarthmore, played moderator for the panel he hosted for community members from all over the region at the Delaware County Intermediate Unit as those who wished for some kind of legislative action to scale back access to guns were vocally opposed by gun rights supporters.

“For decades our democratic institutions have failed to address this problem,” said Kearney. “Despite the growing choruses for a ban on assault weapons, for universal background check, for red flag laws that keep guns away from people in the worst moments of life, we still have nothing to show for it here in Pennsylvania. We really have nothing to show but an endless recycling of our thoughts and prayers.

“I was taught that faith must be accompanied by good works. Our thoughts and prayers must be accompanied by policy change otherwise our words are empty. We’ve been losing this fight because the pro-gun lobby has been more organized. If we’re serious about saving lives we need to be more organized.”

Melissa Carden of Mothers Demand Action said gun violence goes beyond what dominates the news cycles, as suicide accounts for two-thirds of all deaths in the country by guns, plus countless other homicides.

“Our gun problem is far worse than the mass shootings which claimed the wall-to-wall news coverage last week, but we know where to start on the solutions: background checks and red flag laws,” said Carden. “We’re not talking about responsible gun ownership, we’re talking about guns not getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

Displayed on projection screens during the town wall were four sets of bills that have been introduced in the state Legislature to address new gun safety policies: SB 392 and HB 307 (assault weapon ban); SB 88 and HB 673 (universal background checks); SB 90 and HB 1075 (red flag/extreme risk protection order); and SB 483 and HB 1288 (lost or stolen gun reporting).

Movement on the bills have been slow in the house, according to state Rep. Leanne Krueger, D-161 of Nether Providence, but she is hopeful that more action will come in the Senate with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lisa Baker, R-20 of Luzerne County, signaling she will have hearings on such legislation.

One bill that was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf was Act 79 of 2018 that, enacted since March, requires convicted domestic abusers to relinquish their firearms within 24 hours to a law enforcement agency, district attorney's office or licensed gun dealer. Previously, an abuser had 60 days to surrender their guns to a third party (family member or friend).

Wolf just last week signed an executive order creating new state-level offices and creating other initiatives to "better target the public health crisis of gun violence."

The U.S. Department of Justice enacted in March a ban on bump stocks and a background check bill that passed the House in February is awaiting action in the Senate. Lawmakers and activists have asked U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to reconvene the chamber early before the fall session starts next month to work on gun legislation, which doesn’t look likely.

One state lawmaker’s view at Tuesday’s town hall about assault weapons being protected by the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms was met with divisive response from a few audience members.

“The Second Amendment is not a death sentence, it doesn’t give you an unqualified right to maintain a personal arsenal. It doesn’t give you the right to own an assault weapon and we need to stop that,” said State Rep. Mike Zabel, D-163 of Upper Darby, who leaned on his career as a lawyer before starting his first term as a state lawmaker in January to justify his view.

The crowd swelled with applause at Zabel’s comment, but at least one outspoken gun rights advocate shouted, “That’s a lie! That’s absolutely nuts!” Zabel countered by citing two cases (Kolbe v. Hogan and Friedman v. City of Highland Park) where local ordinance/statuette bans on assault weapons were held as constitutional by the fourth and seventh circuit court of appeals, respectively, in 2017 and 2015.

The U.S. Supreme Court chose not to review these cases on appeal.

Guns were a focal point of state Rep. Jennifer O’Mara’s, D-165 of Springfield, campaign last year seeing how she lost her father to a self-inflicted gunshot when she was a teenager, had a partner in college who was a reported dangerous heroin addict with access to guns, and, at present, is married to a serviceman who was shot by an assault weapon in a combat zone.

“Assault weapons were designed, as my husband who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan told me, to rapidly take down human bodies,” said O’Mara. "If they are hit with an assault weapon their life is impacted forever, that is a statistic that does not lie, and if it does, tell that to my husband when I take care of my his wounds that are still here.

“We need to do something about rifles, military assault-style rifles that are taking down human bodies.”

Assault rifles have been commonly used in mass shootings since the Columbine tragedy in 1999 including Sandy Hook in 2012, Orlando Pulse Nightclub Shooting in 2016, the Las Vegas strip in 2017, and the shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio within 13 hours of each other on Aug. 3 and 4, respectively, of this year.

“Weapons of war do not belong in a person’s home,” said state Rep. David Delloso, D-162 of Ridley Township, who said he may support a magazine (gun clip) ban. “I’d like to level the field in the amount of time it takes me to close in on a guy while he’s changing magazines. The fact that a guy can get 100 rounds off and keep me pinned down is an issue for me. Maybe if he was on 10’s (bullets per clip) and flipped I could get two steps closer to him.”

The town hall panel, comprised of five Democratic lawmakers, four gun control advocates and Republican District Attorney Katayoun Copeland, was attacked for being one-sided on the gun issue and for not including more views from gun rights supporters, or Republicans.

District Attorney Copeland did not directly address her support for or against gun control legislation, but as the county’s top prosecutor (and a prosecutor for 27 years), she can only enforce legislation that is currently on the books.

“What I do control is what we can do as law enforcement personnel, and rolling up our sleeves, getting involved and partnering with our communities is something that we can do something about, and it can reduce (gun) violence,” she said.

Bala Cynwyd resident Joseph Abramson said proposed gun control laws are not focused on criminals committing crimes, but target law-abiding citizens. He asked Copeland if she follows the mandatory minimum sentences for criminals who commit a crime with a gun.

“Of course we do,” responded Copeland. “I have stood by too many victims who have been shot, shot in the head, body or (of those) who have lost their lives for us to not invoke mandatory minimum. We are not Philadelphia.” Copeland added that her office has a unit dedicated to working with the ATF (U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) to charge individuals who are illegally buying or possessing firearms.

Kearney said state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, was scheduled to appear but had to cancel (Killion is the prime sponsor on SB 90, a red flag bill with bi-partisan support that will allow a court order to temporarily remove firearms from dangerous individuals). Kearney's spokesman Taj Magruder on Wednesday said the county's two Republican state Reps. Steve Barrar, of Upper Chichester, and Chris Quinn, of Middletown, were invited, but they issued no response. Kearney said advocates from Delco United for Sensible Gun Policy and CeaseFire PA asked to join the panel, but more views from gun advocates, simply, were absent.

Wayne resident Frank Tait is a member of the National Rifle Association and a certified firearms instructor for the organization. He said proper firearms training is never part of the conversation.

“What this training can do can save lives,” said Tait.

“I don’t disagree with you, I think we’re after the same thing,” Kearney responded. “I’d be happy to talk to you and get your contact information so we can…” his statement interrupted by an audience member who shouted out, “Do it before the panel next time!”

One of the youngest persons to speak was a 15-year-old teenager from New Castle, Delaware, who frequents such forums. She lost an older sibling to gun violence and found one solution that couldn’t be solved with laws: love.

“We need to hit people with positivity, kindness and love because we have mass shootings but we don’t have mass love,” she said. “Instead of going to the policies and the government and tell them we need to change something, you have to start with your mentality and how you treat everybody else.”