House reps, concerned groups express need for ‘commonsense’ reform
HARRISBURG, March 15 – Members of PA SAFE, a group of state lawmakers and firearm-safety advocates, held a news conference today announcing their mission and outlining legislation they support to help protect Pennsylvanians from the increasing threat of gun violence.
Members of PA SAFE said that they are committed to reducing all types of violence in society through adequate funding for mental health services, best use of new and existing law-enforcement tools, resources to curb effects of addiction and illegal drugs, and solutions that reduce gun violence and promote public safety.
“Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support sensible, commonsense gun-safety legislation,” said PA SAFE Chairwoman and state Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery. “The members of PA SAFE know this, and in no way are we proposing measures that infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners. We simply want to protect our constituents, and if our measures can save even just one person, I feel that we have a duty to make it law.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, deaths related to firearms amounted to over 33,000 in the United States, constituting 1.3 percent of all deaths in the country, with more than 21,000 of them suicides. Nearly 3,000 children die each year from gunshots, and some 15,000 children are injured by firearms.
“The majority of Pennsylvanians – including a majority of gun owners – do not want our streets and neighborhoods to be the new Wild West,” said state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, who co-chairs PA SAFE. “They do not accept that senseless gun violence should be the new normal, and they support commonsense solutions like background checks, requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns, and keeping guns out of the hands of people subject to protection from abuse orders.”
“Now more than ever, it’s vital that we as legislators and concerned citizens work together with gun-safety advocacy groups to get our message across and work toward a safer Pennsylvania,” said state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware. “The National Rifle Association has tremendous strength and, sadly, lawmakers from the federal level down to the local level tend to be swayed through the threats and bully-like tactics employed by the NRA. Working together with gun safety advocacy groups, I’m confident we can build power, overcome these tactics and enact commonsense gun legislation.”
The group also announced a new web site, www.PaHouse.com/PaSAFE. Members said they encourage anyone who would like to help move the bills from committee to visit the site, where they can send emails to House and committee leaders requesting action.
“Right now in Pennsylvania, a criminal can purchase an assault rifle even though it is illegal for that same criminal to purchase a handgun,” said state Rep. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, who is the prime sponsor of Universal Background Check legislation. “That is something that needs to be fixed now, before the next tragedy strikes. We are here today because we have chosen to act. We are a coalition that is more representative of our community than the NRA, and we will prevail.”
“When is enough, enough? Universal background checks are desperately needed,” said state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny. “It may not be the ‘end all’ to gun violence, but we need to start somewhere. Something has got to change. Think about how many lives could be saved if we had a universal background check law on the books in Pennsylvania.”
PA SAFE Caucus membership is high and is expected to grow, Dean said. In addition to the aforementioned House members, state Sen. Art Haywood attended, and Shira Goodman of Ceasefire PA and Robin Lloyd of Americans for Responsible Solutions spoke during the conference.
“Each representative in PA SAFE has experience working across the aisle, and we believe that the issues surrounding gun safety and accountability should not be partisan issues,” said state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila. “Pennsylvanians have the right to feel safe in their places of work, worship and recreation, and in their schools. The bills we support contribute to the security and safety that citizens desire in the places that they live, work and play.”
“CeaseFirePA thanks the PA SAFE caucus for its leadership and commitment to commonsense policies that will make Pennsylvania safer,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePa. “The goal is to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. The policies supported by the PA Safe Caucus will do that and doing that will help us make Pennsylvania a safer place to live, play, pray, learn and work.”