Could lawmakers be moving closer to an actual debate on firearms policies in the Commonwealth?
Yes, and it could happen sooner than later.
Four bills moved out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that would expand the state’s gun laws, including bills for universal background checks, mandatory lost and stolen reporting, an extreme risk protection law and requiring gun purchasers to also acquire a gun lock.
The quartet were passed on a straight-line party vote and now move to the entire House for consideration.
Rep. Tim Briggs (D-Montgomery), chair of the Judiciary Committee, opened the sessions by stating that “today is an important day. We are taking a first step in moving responsible firearm legislation. Doing nothing is no longer an option and we will work to come up with commonsense solutions to difficult problems. I want everyone that testified before our committee hearing on preventing gun violence and mass shootings (to know), “we heard you.”
House Bill 714, sponsored by Rep. Perry K. Warren (D-Bucks), addresses the issue background check loopholes by requiring background checks for all firearms, regardless of barrel length. The change would ensure that the sale or transfer of any firearm is kept safe and legal, regardless of if the firearm was purchased through a licensed retail seller, via private transaction, or at a gun show.
HB 338, sponsored by Rep. Benjamin V. Sanchez (D-Montgomery), is legislation that would require any owner or other individual lawfully in possession of a firearm who suffers the loss or theft of a weapon to report it to law enforcement within 72 hours of the discovery. If an individual fails to do so, they will be charged with a summary offense.
Rep. Rob W. Kauffman (R-Franklin), minority chair of the Judiciary Committee, said, “It’s important to note yet again that every law-abiding gun owner that I’m aware of, as soon as they see that their firearm is missing, would immediately report it to law enforcement officials. The only folks that this will impact are criminals who will not follow the law and law-abiding gun owners who don’t actually know that they’ve lost their firearm or it’s been stolen. This simply criminalizes law-abiding gun owners.”
HB 731, sponsored by Rep. Darisha K. Parker (D-Philadelphia), calls for safe storage requirements for long guns. Under the bill, all firearm sales would need to include a locking device to ensure safe storage of the firearm.
“There is no reason that anyone should lose a loved one because of a mishandled firearm,” Parker said. “My legislation would prevent needless tragedies by keeping guns safe, secure and out of the hands of the 1 million children who currently live in a home with unsecured firearms.
HB 1018, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer O’Mara (D-Delaware), would provide for Extreme Risk Protection Orders that would provide a mechanism for loved ones, family members, or law enforcement to ask a Judge to hold a hearing to temporarily disarm someone in crisis.
Briggs said that “today is a first step, but I assure you it will not be the last.”
Chair of the Philadelphia House Delegation Rep. Morgan Cephas (D-Philadelphia) said that it was a remarkable day as another hurdle in efforts to deflate gun violence has been cleared.
“This victory is long overdue. We are finally moving gun violence bills out of the Judiciary Committee. We have relentlessly fought for these bills”, she said. “In a Republican majority there was no chance for any kind of gun reform, but the time has come, and we couldn’t be more optimistic about this process.”
CeaseFirePA, an organization dedicated to ending the epidemic of gun violence in Pennsylvania, tweeted, “This is huge. The PA House Judiciary Committee just passed our Common Agenda to #EndGunViolence. They gave voice to the vast majority of PA’ns who are demanding life-saving gun laws.”
Guns kill people in the hands of stupid, mentally ill, racist morons. In other words, the GOP MAGA rednecks.