PA SAFE Caucus calls for gun safety reforms needed in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, March 14 – PA SAFE Caucus members today outlined their legislative goals related to gun safety reform during a Capitol news conference, one month following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and coinciding with a national student walkout calling for immediate changes to gun laws across the country.

Lawmakers spoke about their frustrations with trying to pass commonsense legislation as well as specific House bills that they would like to see move from committee.

“The time is now to finally say enough is enough — to listen to the students whose wisdom and bravery is inspirational,” said PA SAFE Co-chair Madeleine Dean, D-Montgomery. “We can and must do something to combat this gun violence epidemic, not just to prevent mass shootings like in Parkland, but to combat the everyday violence that claims 33,000 lives a year in this country, and injures 80,000 others in the crossfire.”

Members expressed their expectations ahead of a special set of hearings on gun laws scheduled for the week of April 9.

"We are pleased to see that the House Judiciary Committee will give members a chance to speak about important gun safety proposals,” said PA SAFE Co-chair Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny. “But we also know that a hearing is not enough – we expect the chance to vet some of these bills on the House floor in the very near future.”

“Family and close friends are often the first to notice early warnings signs of crisis in those they love,” said state Rep. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, who sponsors H.B. 2109, which would allow those in harm’s way to petition the court for a firearm restraining order. “They are also often first in the line of fire. We have to give them a mechanism through which they can petition the court for a firearm restraining order and the protection that restraining order would provide — not only for them but for their loved one as well.”

State Rep. Joanna McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware, said: "Every gun murder is a tragedy and outrage, and every victim should matter. The upcoming hearings should be followed by votes on bills that can save lives. I'm a minister and I strongly believe that thoughts and prayers are not enough."

“We are not helpless in stopping these recurring horrific tragedies,” said state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila. “It is incumbent upon us to act, without delay, to pass these needed commonsense reforms that will save lives.”

A survivor of the 1999 school shooting in Columbine High School in Colorado also joined the lawmakers in their calls for action.

"There are tens and thousands of students who, like myself, have lived the terror of a shooting in their schools, and many more face it in their streets,” said Jami Amo, a graduate of Columbine High School who lives in Philadelphia. “We have had enough."

The special hearings will be held:

  • 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Monday, April 9 in Room 140, Main Capitol

  • 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 10 in Room 140, Main Capitol

  • 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 11 in Room 140, Main Capitol

  • A fourth hearing is scheduled for Thursday, April 12. The time and location are to be determined.

PA SAFE Caucus and House members are expected to advocate for legislation during those hearings, including for:

  • Assault weapons ban (H.B. 194) – Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Allegheny
  • Ban bump stocks (H.B. 1872 – Dean and Rep. Dom Costa)

  • Require background checks for all firearm purchases (H.B. 1400 – Dean, Costa)

  • Require Pennsylvania to transfer existing mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS (Memo circulated by Rep. Margo Davidson)

  • Ban large-capacity ammunition magazines (H.B. 2112 – Rep. Kevin Boyle)

  • Provide more funding for safe school initiatives (Memo circulated by Rep. Bill Kortz)

  • Prohibit people on the no-fly list from purchasing/possessing firearms (H.B. 528 – Rep. Perry Warren)

  • Allow concerned family members and law enforcement to file extreme risk protective orders (H.B. 2109 – McCarter)

  • Require schools to timely notify parents when their kids are involved in safety incidents at school (H.B. 1498 – Rep. Stephen Kinsey)

  • Increase training and education for school security officers (Memo circulated by Rep. Carol Hill-Evans)

  • Allow people with mental or physical health concerns to voluntarily surrender their firearms (H.B. 273 – Rep. Maria Donatucci)

  • Prohibit a person who’s been ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment from possessing a firearm (H.B. 22 – Rep. Mike O’Brien)