PA SAFE Caucus: Healthy public policy over firearms is overdue in Pa.

HARRISBURG, March 22 – Lawmakers and advocates held a news conference today announcing the re-formation and legislative priorities of the PA SAFE Caucus, which aims to bring attention to state firearm and public-safety legislation, said the group’s co-chairs, state Reps. Madeleine Dean and Dan Frankel.

Members of the caucus discussed how the issue of gun safety is gaining traction across political lines and outlined their support for legislation needed in the commonwealth, including for universal background checks, limits on magazine capacity and requirements to report lost or stolen guns.

“Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support sensible gun-safety legislation,” said Dean, D-Montgomery. “The members of PA SAFE know this, and in no way are we proposing measures that infringe on the rights of lawful gun owners. We simply want to protect our constituents, and if our measures can save even just one person, I feel that we have a duty to make it law.”

“As a vice chair of the PA SAFE Caucus, I’m proud to be part of this group that is working together on commonsense gun safety legislation,” said state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-Delaware. “This session, I’m hoping we’ll be able to move forward on issues that have strong bipartisan support, such as the universal background check bill (known as H.B. 1010 last session), and that we’ll actually see a vote in committee and on the House floor.”

“National surveys reflect what we are hearing from our communities, that there is broad support for these measures,” said state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester. “A 2015 study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Prevention found that there is overwhelming bipartisan support for background checks on all gun purchases, regardless of who is selling the weapon or where the transaction is taking place. That support includes 85 percent of gun owners surveyed.

“It is time to listen to the majority of Democrats, Republicans, gun owners and law enforcement officials and implement universal background checks without loopholes.”

Another proposed law that was discussed deals with carrying firearms while intoxicated. The legislation’s introduction comes on the heels of a recent quadruple shooting at a bar in the Mount Airy neighborhood in Philadelphia.

"Pennsylvania should do what at least 30 other states have already done and make it illegal to carry a firearm while intoxicated,” said state Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila. “We don't allow people to drive while drunk, and a loaded gun can be just as deadly as a car. Like other legislation sponsored by members of the PA SAFE Caucus, this is just common sense."

“For far too long this legislature has failed to address commonsense reforms for gun safety,” said state Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila. “The measures highlighted today by the PA SAFE Caucus are supported by the majority of Pennsylvanians. We have a responsibility to take the needed steps to protect our constituents, and not the interests of gun lobby organizations such as the NRA.”

“We keep hearing tragedy after tragedy caused by gun violence,” said Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh. “Even one life taken as a result of gun violence is too many. It is inexcusable for 33,000 Americans to lose their lives while special-interest groups and gun manufacturers stonewall safety measures.”

Members also discussed the role of legislation dealing with mental health treatment and its effect on gun-safety laws.

“As we go forward with a variety of legislation regarding the regulation of guns, it is important to ensure that those with a mental health diagnosis do not have their 2nd Amendment rights violated,” said state Rep. Pamela A. DeLissio, D-Montgomery/Phila. “It is too often assumed that those with mental illness are violent or have violent tendencies. This is simply not true.”

Members of PA SAFE are legislators and advocates committed to reducing all types of violence in society through adequate funding for mental health services, best use of new and existing law-enforcement tools, resources to curb effects of addiction and illegal drugs, and solutions that reduce gun violence and promote public safety.

"We appreciate the dedication of the PA SAFE Caucus in working to focus Harrisburg's attention on commonsense policies to make our communities safer,” said CeaseFirePA Executive Director Shira Goodman. “This effort – both in championing specific policy solutions such as expanding and protecting our background check system – and in the general commitment to directing attention to the critical issue of public safety deserves the support of all Pennsylvanians who want PA to be a safer place to live, work, learn, pray and play."