A day after the seventh US mass shooting in a week, gun control advocates and gun rights advocates in Pennsylvania clashed over the debate over immediate calls for stricter laws to curb the tide of gun violence and deaths.
At a forum of gun violence survivors, lawyers and gun owners, Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro called for legislative changes to restrict gun laws and implement sensible solutions to end gun violence.
“Gun violence is a scourge in Pennsylvania and our country, and the mass shootings that took place in Colorado yesterday are another tragic reminder that we can’t wait to pass laws that change the narrative that nothing is to be done “said Wolf, a democratic and passionate gun control advocate. “There is and it is about making changes now. We can’t wait to pass laws to reduce gun violence. “
Meanwhile, proponents of Amendment 2 rights pushed back on such calls, urging gun control proponents to seize a national tragedy to advance their agenda.
“To call the capitalization of the Boulder and Atlanta tragedy a call for more gun control is not only absurd but also unethical and immoral,” said Kim Stolfer, president of the Pennsylvania chapter of Firearms Owners Against Crime. “Every time something happens, they look at the instrumentality, not the nuance and the problem.”
In Boulder, Colorado, a gunman armed with an assault rifle shot dead 10 people, including a police officer, in a supermarket on Monday, authorities said. According to police, the 21-year-old suspect, who is in hospital and police custody, bought the assault rifle on March 16, six days before the shooting.
The deadly rampage occurred a week after the mass shootings in the Atlanta area, in which eight people died, including six Asian-Americans.
Wolf and Shapiro were joined by other proponents, including members of CeaseFirePA, who proposed three legislative solutions to what the organization sees as a public health crisis. These include:
- Creating Extreme Risk Protection Instructions as a means of temporarily removing firearms from those who wish to injure themselves or others.
- Report lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours to reduce community violence.
- Closing the loopholes in the Pennsylvania background checking system to prevent purchasing military style rifles from a private, unlicensed seller.
Adam Garber of CeaseFirePA said the violence in the community has turned neighborhoods into war zones “as people try to do most things, be it shopping or going to the park.”
Nearly three-quarters of Pennsylvania’s murders involve firearms, and more than half of all Pennsylvania’s suicides involve firearms.
Gun rights advocates, however, opposed calls to expand legal restrictions on gun rights.
‘Enforce Existing Laws’
Harold Daub, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists, stressed that his organization, which represents around 70,000 non-partisan members, is against any law intended to restrict the rights of the second amendment.
“As an organization, PFSC continues to support the Second Amendment and the US and Pennsylvania Constitution on Second Amendment rights,” he said. “We would like to ask the legislature to continue to enforce the existing laws. It appears that many mass shootings take place in gun-free zones and are perpetrated by individuals who are not properly licensed or authorized to possess weapons at all. “
Daub said current laws will not be enforced even if nationwide mental health resources and protocols are ignored, which results in guns getting their hands on the mentally unstable. Daub said the organization is not in favor of restricting arms sales to anyone, including someone with mental illness.
“If they didn’t have access to a weapon, they’d find another way to cause damage,” Daub said. “We have to find a way to enforce the laws in force on the books and keep these types of criminals out of the streets and our communities. I firmly believe that if a properly licensed gun owner had been present at the time of the shooting, mass shootings would have ended sooner. The fact is, guns save more lives than they need. Unfortunately, you don’t hear when guns are used to stop or commit crimes. “
Pennsylvania law prohibits the sale of firearms to anyone receiving treatment for mental illness.
Stolfer criticized gun control advocates for spreading misinformation and lawmakers for failing to do their job to enforce laws that are already on the books.
“We will no longer be part of it. There is no longer any compromise, ”he said. “If you don’t want to do your job, don’t dare find law-abiding citizens and say we have to sacrifice our rights or you want to take advantage of a tragic situation.”
Boulder cop Eric Talley was among the 10 people killed in Boulder on Monday. Talley, 51, father of seven, was one of the first aides to run in the door when the shooter opened fire at the grocery store.
I’m looking for more than “thoughts and prayers”
With a Republican-led legislature in Pennsylvania, any attempt to curtail gun owners’ rights has little chance of gaining a foothold, as in the past.
Sen. Sharif Street, Philadelphia, is working on laws banning military-grade weapons and accessories, but he has raised concerns that the bill will go nowhere in the General Assembly.
“We don’t even have decent gun laws,” Street said in a report from ABC-6 in Philadelphia.
Another pending law recently reintroduced, Senate Law 217, would require people to report lost or stolen small arms.
Stolfer said such a measure would have little or no effect on gun violence.
“It victimizes people who have already been victims,” he said. “They talked about how criminals can’t buy military-style weapons. I know this will be a shock, but it’s already illegal in the state. It’s a red herring. That’s another lie. If you have an offense of 1 or higher, you cannot own or transfer a firearm. “
MEP Malcom Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia) said lawmakers have a moral obligation not to look the other way when there is gun violence.
“We need to stop repeating the tired sentences about ‘thoughts and prayers’ and withdraw the useless argument about ‘criminals’ versus ‘law abiding citizens’ and realize that it doesn’t matter which weapon the bullet comes from when it hits Child kills. ruins a life and devastates a family, ”he said. “We need to work together to identify the steps we can take to address the problem and then take action.”
At the federal level, the Democrat-led US House of Representatives passed two bills this month that would expand background checks, including one that would require checks on all sales and transfers, including between private parties, at gun shows, and over the internet.
President Biden on Tuesday called on the Senate to pass the two background review bills and urge Congress to re-enact a ban on assault weapons.
The House plan is more robust than the bipartisan plan proposed by Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey after the 2013 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Toomey’s plan, co-authored by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, was rejected by the National Rifle Association and rejected by a GOP-led filibuster.
“I don’t trust any legislator based on the letter in brackets after his name,” Daub said. “We judge legislation by the words it contains, not by the author.”
“Common Sense Solutions Can Save Lives”
Gun violence survivor Carol Lastowka said gun safety and possession are critical to breaking the current gun impasse. Despite being a hunter and a gun owner, Lastovka said guns had little beneficial effect on her life or the lives of those around her.
“Guns are part of my family, my life and my history, they always will be, but I wish I never had to see the tragic destruction that guns wreaked on my loved ones,” she said. “As a gun owner, I know that sensible solutions can save lives and enable me to continue hunting.”
She has lost several friends, including a cousin, to gun violence and gun accidents.
Lastowka said the three laws pushed by CeaseFire PA likely saved the lives of some of their loved ones.
“As a gun owner, I am confident that these actions will not affect my ability to hunt, but they will make Pennsylvania a safer place to go to school, work and live,” she said.
Shapiro recently helped reach an agreement with the largest gun show organizer in Pennsylvania to ban ghost weapons from gun shows. He urged the officials to take measures to curb the violence.
“It doesn’t have to be like that,” he said. “It is time to stop pretending those of you who are hiding behind the second amendment that will allow criminals to somehow circumvent our laws and make firearms at home. It is time to stop complaining about violent cities and not find a solution to this crisis. “
Ghost guns are incomprehensible self-assembled weapon sets, often, Shapiro said, that were bought from the “duffle bag load online and at gun shows” with no background check.
Shapiro said he was working with President Biden’s administration to regulate these firearms and require a background check.
Stolfer and Daub both said that empowering people with guns to protect themselves rather than restrict property was a solution to the problem.
“We feel terrible when someone breaks the law and takes life with such a weapon, just like we do with those who irresponsibly drive a car and take someone’s life,” said Daub. “But we will never side with the perceived fear that weakens our support for the second amendment.”