By Ed Gainey
Last weekend’s mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas were a wrenching reminder of the grief and heartache that have pierced too many communities across our nation, a shared trauma that leaves us wondering not if a mass shooting will happen again, but when and where.
The names are a roll call through the heart of America: Virginia Beach, Squirrel Hill, Santa Fe, Parkland, Charleston — the list goes on. We should be moved to tears, roused to action, and yet, all too often we are left with a sense of impotent hopelessness, the feeling that despite our cries — and those of the families who have a lost cherished loved one — things will never change.
But we are not powerless.
There is legislation sitting in committee in the state House in Harrisburg that would address many of the issues that lead to and enable these tragedies, including a bill to ban assault weapons. They are sitting because the Republican leadership — including House Speaker Mike Turzai, who represents parts of Allegheny County — refuses to bring them to a vote, despite the support of Gov. Tom Wolf.
I understand and respect Pennsylvania’s long-held support of gun rights, particularly for outdoor sportsmen. However, we cannot sit idly by and wait for another Tree of Life, another Stoneman Douglas to occur.
As Dr. King said, we need to feel the “fierce urgency of now,” because people are dying. On our streets, people are dying. In our houses of worship, people are dying. And, in our schools, our children — our children – are dying.
We must act, and so I call upon Rep. Turzai and my fellow legislators to bring these bills to the floor of the House and to give them a vote – yea or nay. The time to sit on the sidelines has long passed. It is time for us to take up substantive legislation on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania.
Because we cannot remain complacent. We cannot allow numbness to replace our sense of purpose or urgency. We cannot wait. Our schools cannot wait, our churches and businesses cannot wait. Our brothers and sisters cannot wait.
Our children cannot wait.
State Rep. Ed Gainey, a Democrat, represents the Allegheny County-based 24th House District. He writes from Harrisburg.