Gun violence reduction advocates rally on the steps of the state Capitol on Thursday, March 23, 2023 (Capital-Star photo).
By Brandon Flood
I am a Republican, a lawful gun owner, a survivor of gun violence, and a former straw purchaser. Given my background, it may also surprise some to discover I am also the deputy director of the Commonwealth’s leading gun violence prevention organization, CeaseFirePA.
As lawmakers in the Pennsylvania state Senate consider firearm safety legislation previously approved by the state House, I implore my fellow Republicans and gun owners to heed my perspective on the subject of gun access laws.
As a native of the city of Harrisburg, I have lived and was raised in neighborhoods that have been rife with crime and heavily impacted by gun violence.
Not only have I lost three very close friends to gun violence (and innumerable other casual acquaintances), I also narrowly escaped succumbing to the very same fate myself as I was the victim of a robbery and shot three times in the Uptown area of Harrisburg in 2006.
This constant danger led me to obtain my first illegal gun at the age of 13, when I purchased a sawed-off shotgun from an adult in a back alley for $40. Although I did not have plans to use it, I recognized, even at that young age, that this was a bargain buy that could be later resold at a marked-up price. In fact, from the ages of 13-21, I was able to illegally purchase at least two dozen guns that I either kept for my own protection or sold to other prohibited people throughout the city.
Although many may be shocked and horrified to hear this, what should be even more galling is the fact that I as a minor and a prohibited purchaser was able to obtain these weapons from people who acquired their guns legally.
These were upper middle class drug addicts who ventured from their idyllic and perfectly manicured gated communities into the seedy city side streets to barter their legally purchased weapons in exchange for drugs.
People who took advantage of their family members’ negligence or forgetfulness to pilfer firearms that were not properly stored or secured.
As well as my peers who had reached the age of 21 and who could legally purchase guns from a licensed dealer only to resell them to whomever was willing to pay the highest premium for them (especially if they wanted a particular model or style of weapon).
Given these facts, it would be foolish of us not address the issue of gun access in a way that still respects the 2nd Amendment, while also taking into account that there are glaring gaps in our existing laws that unintentionally fuel the proliferation of crime guns in our communities.
That’s why I support the Common Agenda to End Gun Violence. It requires people to securely store their firearms, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and would potentially stop shootings before they happen. It requires reporting of missing firearms when the owner notices them gone.
Other states have seen gun trafficking drop by 46 percent as a result of this policy. It requires every gun sale in the state to include a background check, something we already do for all handgun sales.
Moreover, it gives close family and law enforcement a life-saving tool if someone is at imminent risk of ending their lives or others. Extreme Risk Protection Orders have been proven to thwart suicides and prevent mass shootings in 20 states and the District of Columbia (Including in Florida and Indiana) and can do so here.
I often hear from opponents that we should not be proposing legislation that penalizes lawful gun owners who may be the victims of thefts or lapses in memory.
However, what lawmakers must realize is that there is a very distinct difference between a mere lawful gun owner and a lawfully responsible gun owner.
A lawful gun owner just means that a person can legally purchase and possess a firearm. A lawfully responsible gun owner is someone who not only can lawfully possess a firearm, but also undertakes the steps necessary to ensure that they are adept at properly handling, storing and securing their firearm.
The overarching objective of the Common Agenda is to put basic policies in place that make lawfully responsible gun ownership the standard, not the exception.
This is a principle that as a Republican, gun owner, and former straw purchaser I can fully get behind. So should my fellow Republicans in the Pennsylvania state Senate chamber.
Brandon Flood is the Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the gun violence reform group CeaseFirePA. He writes from Harrisburg.
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