House Judiciary Committee Stops Gun Reform Discussion

Harrisburg Capitol Steps

Any movement on potential gun reform in the Commonwealth was stopped cold in its tracks Tuesday by State House Republicans.

The Judiciary Committee used its majority in the House to block a proposal to prohibit the sale or possession of assault weapons for individuals under the age of 21.

Rep. Kate Klunk (R-York) made a motion to amend the proposal that would remove all of the current language in the bill, replacing it with language providing for “constitutional carry” of a firearm. The vote passed 14-11 with only Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) crossing party lines to vote against the amendment.

“The original intention of HB 717 was simply to raise the limits of purchasing an assault rifle,” said Rep. Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh). “I don’t understand what makes that controversial.”

“We will basically have gone back 150 years into the Wild West,” said Rep. Joe Hohenstein (D-Philadelphia). “Actually, in the Wild West, there were stricter gun control laws that what we have now.”

It was the second straight week that Democratic proposals have been thwarted by the Judiciary Committee.

Last week, the committee voted to ask the speaker to send four other gun bills to another committee, effectively stopping action on proposals regarding safe gun storage, an assault weapons ban, a red flag bill and a measure to give local governments power to enact their own protections.

Democrats have utilized “discharge resolutions” – discharging a bill from further consideration in committee – in an effort to get gun violence bills out of the Judiciary Committee. A discharge resolution must be passed by a majority vote of the members elected to the House.

“I understand the majority party will never advance responsible gun violence prevention legislation out of this committee,” said the ranking Democrat on Judiciary, Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery), to KYW Newsradio.

“It’s a shame. It’s a shame that we can’t even have a conversation about it.”

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