HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf joined a group of lawmakers and gun control advocates Wednesday to call for renewed action on gun laws ahead of Gun Violence Awareness Day Friday.
“The time has come to end gun violence in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “We need to end mass shootings; we need to end homicide shootings; and we need to end suicides by gun. We’ve made progress over the past year at developing common sense measures to reduce gun violence, such as stopping domestic abusers from accessing guns during the time they are most likely to kill their victims.”
The rally comes in the wake of a series of mass shootings, most recently an incident in Virginia Beach, Va., that left 12 dead, an October synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that claimed the lives of 11 along with school shootings in Parkland, Fla., that claimed 17 lives in February 2018 and in Highland Ranch, Col., last month, in which one student was killed.
The state Legislature passed its first gun control measure in decades last fall – a law aimed at getting guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
State Sen. Art Haywood, D-Philadelphia, who organized the Capitol rally on Wednesday, said that before that law passed there was a feeling in Harrisburg that gun control bills would never become law.
With that success, Haywood said there’s reason to believe that additional bills could become law as well.
“We have momentum,” he said.
Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA, a statewide gun control lobbying group, said that events will be held across Pennsylvania in the coming days in recognition of the gun violence awareness commemoration. That includes a blood drive Friday in Sunbury at Zion Lutheran Church, according to a listing on CeaseFire PA’s web site.
“This is a real problem,” Goodman said. “It demands out attention. We’re not going away.”
State Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware County, said potential gun legislation would include a red flag bill to help gets guns away from people considered to be a danger to themselves or others, along with new requirements for reporting lost or stolen firearms.
While gun control advocates have called for that type of legislation, there seems to be no broad interest in the Legislature to take up additional gun control measures, said state Sen. Wayne Langerholc, R-Cambria County.
On the other hand, legislation that would allow third-party groups like the NRA to file lawsuits to challenge local gun laws that are more stringent than state law was passed by the Senate local government committee in April.
That measure, Senate Bill 531, would also allow gun owners to seek to get their legal bills paid if they successfully sue to challenge a local gun law. Langerholc authored the measure. It passed out of committee by a straight party vote of 7-4. Langerholc said he’s not sure when the full Senate will take up the bill.