The Lead

Senate Democrats renew calls for gun control measures that face an uphill battle

By: - June 5, 2019 12:29 pm
Sen. Art Haywood speaks alongside gun control advocates on National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Sen. Art Haywood speaks alongside gun control advocates on National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Days after a gunman murdered 12 people in a municipal government building in Virginia Beach, Democrats in Pennsylvania’s Senate renewed their calls for a slew of gun control measures that face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

In a state Capitol press conference Wednesday morning, senators representing urban and suburban districts said that “common sense gun legislation” could prevent carnage in Pennsylvania’s streets, schools, and places of worship.

The event was held ahead of a National Gun Violence Awareness Day rally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon that Gov. Tom Wolf will attend.

“It’s safe to say that nobody wants to see firearms in the hands of the wrong people,” said Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Allegheny, who is sponsoring a bill that would permit police to temporarily seize guns from people in emotional distress. “Inaction is no longer an option.”

Fontana’s Pittsburgh district neighbors the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, which was the site of an October synagogue shooting that left 11 dead.

His bill to authorize Emergency Risk Protection Orders has the support of Sen. Tom Killion, a Chester and Delaware County Republican who’s one of the few vocal voices in his party for gun control measures.

Supporters say the so-called “red flag laws” could prevent suicides, mass shootings, and lethal domestic violence attacks. They’re already in effect in 14 other states, including neighboring Maryland.

The orders, which would function similarly to Protection from Abuse orders, would allow police officers or family members to petition a judge to seize the firearms of a loved one who threatens suicide or acts of violence.  

Senate Democrats also called on Republican leaders to consider other gun control measures, including bills that would create a new firearm eligibility license and universal background checks for all gun sales.

Those bills have yet to be considered by Republican-controlled committees.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to mass shootings,” Fontana said. “To continue to do nothing is negligence.”


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Elizabeth Hardison
Elizabeth Hardison

Elizabeth Hardison covered education policy, election administration, criminal justice and legislative news for the Capital-Star from Jan. 2019-April 2021. You can find her on Twitter @ElizHardison.