My Statement on the Florida School Shooting
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My Statement on the Florida School Shooting

As a parent putting my son on the school bus this morning, I found myself reflecting on the shattered lives of those parents in Florida who are struggling to process unspeakable grief right now. I found myself thinking that no parents anywhere should ever have to get a newsflash one moment, and in the next find themselves racing to their child’s school to await an anguish truly knowable only to those who have been through life-or-death circumstances. My thoughts and prayers go out to those families and their community.

As a legislator, I am reeling from some eclectic combination of sickening feeling, anger and frustration that yet another mass shooting has been unleashed on the innocent. I find myself asking: What does it have to take? What does it have to take to bring about some law changes that can respect the Second Amendment, while taking demonstrable steps to protect public safety.

Some needed reforms simply have to be passed at the national level, because of either legal and/or practical reasons. I will defer to our federal representatives to speak to their stances on those aspects.

Some matters are more directly in our state’s control, and demand action. To update you, here are some legislation and law changes currently under consideration by the state Legislature in Harrisburg:

• Background Checks: Apply the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, which currently stipulates short-barrel firearms (“handguns”) sales be conducted in front of a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer or county sheriff, to begin also to cover transactions of long-barrel firearms (“rifles”). The practical effect of this new requirement is to ensure every transaction, regardless of gun type, includes a background check. This expanded background check provision then would be in force at gun shows in Pennsylvania for the first time.                                    

• Bump Stocks: Ban accelerated trigger activators, such as bump stocks, from use in Pennsylvania. Ownership of (formally defined) machine guns, to note, already is generally prohibited under the law.

• Mental Health: Extend Pennsylvania law from its current provision forbidding the possession of guns by individuals who are under an involuntarily commitment to in-patient mental health treatment to include involuntary treatment on an outpatient basis as well.

• Ammunition Restriction: Establish that individuals already disqualified to have a gun also be prohibited from purchasing ammunition as well.

• Domestic Violence: Require individuals convicted of domestic violence to relinquish possession of their gun(s) to a legally authorized entity immediately, rather than the current allowable timeline of 60 days.

• Straw Purchases: Increase from a third-degree misdemeanor to a second-degree felony the penalty for persons attempting to purchase a firearm knowing they are prohibited from possessing, using, controlling, selling, transferring or manufacturing firearms; second or subsequent offenses would result in mandatory minimum of five years imprisonment.

• Straw Purchases: Increase the penalty for making false statements on application to purchase a firearm from its current standard of a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony upon conviction for a second offense, and incurring a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Not one of the foregoing is a panacea of course, and there are societal and cultural factors that need a serious rethinking and shift as well. I will provide further updates in the coming days and weeks.
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