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Gun Legislation Advances in Pennsylvania House, Faces Uphill Battle in Senate

The Pennsylvania House has passed two controversial gun bills, receiving bipartisan support, although their prospects of reaching the governor’s desk are uncertain due to the Republican-controlled Senate. The legislation includes measures for universal background checks and emergency protection orders, which proponents argue would address pressing issues related to gun violence. However, Republicans in the Senate remain skeptical, asserting that stricter laws are not the solution and emphasizing their commitment to enhancing safety through law enforcement support, school safety initiatives, and mental health services.

Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman, a Republican from Indiana, stressed the importance of prioritizing safety and security. He highlighted the existing robust gun laws in Pennsylvania and the need for comprehensive enforcement across the state. Democrats, on the other hand, believe that implementing universal background checks and establishing a legal process to temporarily remove firearms from individuals in crisis, commonly referred to as a “red flag” law, enjoy broad public support.

House Speaker Joanna McClinton, a Democrat from Philadelphia, expressed her satisfaction with the progress made, considering it a meaningful step forward. She emphasized that the passage of these sensible and responsible gun safety measures demonstrates their commitment to addressing senseless gun violence and standing with communities affected by it.

House Bill 714, which requires background checks for all firearms regardless of barrel length, successfully cleared the lower chamber with a 109-92 vote. Notably, nine Republicans crossed party lines to support the measure, indicating some bipartisan consensus. The bill extends the background check requirement to private sales and gun show transactions. Critics argue that while the measure burdens law-abiding citizens, it fails to address the issue of criminals obtaining firearms illegally.

The second bill, House Bill 1018, received narrower approval with a vote of 102-99. This legislation establishes a legal framework for extreme risk protection orders, commonly known as “red flag” laws. Under this law, relatives and law enforcement can seek judicial approval to temporarily disarm individuals facing a crisis. Rep. Jennifer O’Mara, a Democrat from Springfield, sponsored the bill in honor of her father, who tragically took his own life in 2003. Supporters assert that red flag laws prevent both homicide and suicide, with the latter accounting for a significant proportion of gun-related deaths in Pennsylvania.

Critics of the bill contend that its broad language could potentially be exploited by malicious actors to unjustly target gun owners. They also express concerns about the lengthy process involved in reclaiming firearms following the resolution of a crisis situation.

A third proposal, House Bill 338, aimed at criminalizing the failure to report a stolen firearm to law enforcement, fell short of passage by a single vote. Democratic Rep. Frank Burns, representing Cambria County, joined all 100 Republicans in opposing the measure. Burns argued that the bill unjustly punishes law-abiding gun owners instead of focusing on holding criminals accountable for theft and misuse of firearms. He drew attention to the irony of advocating for prompt reporting of lost or stolen weapons while expressing opposition to similar police actions such as stop-and-frisk.

Rep. Burns voted against the other two bills as well, highlighting his commitment to preserving Second Amendment rights. He argued that the proposed legislation aimed to erode the constitutional rights of both the people of Cambria County and Pennsylvania as a whole, and he refused to support measures that would undermine those rights.

While these gun bills managed to advance through the House, their future in the Senate remains uncertain due to the Republican majority. The differing perspectives on gun control within the Pennsylvania legislature reflect the ongoing national debate surrounding firearms and public safety.


Patricia M Campbell 1932-2024

Pat graduated from Fannett Township High School in 1950 and received her BA in Education from, known then as, Shippensburg State Teachers College. .

James Patrick McNally III 1947-2024

James was known for his dedication and excellence in his professional career, where he made lasting contributions and built strong relationships with his colleagues.

Brenda Jackson Liu 1945-2024

Upon retirement, Brenda worked as a part-time nurse at the Migrant Health in Gettysburg. During this time she traveled to migrant camps all over Pennsylvania.

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