Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis speaks during a press conference with Senate Democrats in the Capitol on Monday, June 5, 2023 (Capital-Star photo).
After two bills aimed at preventing gun violence saw approval in the House of Representatives last month, Senate Democrats want to finish the job started by their colleagues, who hold a razor-thin margin in the lower chamber, and send the measures to Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk.
As the General Assembly returned to session on Monday — and kicking off gun violence prevention month — Lt. Gov. Austin Davis and Senate Democrats called on their Republican colleagues to support and act on House Bill 1018, which temporarily prevents people in crisis from purchasing firearms, and House Bill 714, which expands background checks on firearms buyers and ends an exception for private sales of long guns.
“Gun violence is a uniquely Pennsylvania problem. It’s not a Pittsburgh problem. It’s not a Philadelphia problem,” Davis, a Democrat, said. “It’s a Pennsylvania problem, and we can solve this problem by working together.”
The House narrowly approved the bills in May, sending them to the Senate.
“We are just one step away from getting these measures on Gov. Shapiro’s desk, and we know he will sign them,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said during a press conference. “And that’s what we’re asking for, the opportunity to be heard. We’re speaking on behalf of the tens of thousands of people who have been affected by gun violence here.”
Before seeing a chamber vote, the bills must advance out of a committee, likely the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Steven Santarsiero, R-Bucks, the ranking Democrat on the panel, told reporters he plans to talk to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairperson Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, about running the bills.
In a statement to the Capital-Star, Baker said the committee will evaluate and discuss the two pieces of legislation “in the same manner as other bills.”
“It is premature to speculate as to the prospects for consideration,” Baker said. “But, as I have frequently said in the past, and will consistently focus on in the future, what I am looking for in potentially considering any gun-related bills is enforceability and ensuring due process in accordance with constitutional protections.”
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