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Governor Wolf signs executive order in effort to reduce gun violence

HARRISBURG, Pa. – With the stroke of a pen, Governor Tom Wolf signs an executive order to reduce gun violence in Pennsylvania. “We need to protect a...

HARRISBURG, Pa. - With the stroke of a pen, Governor Tom Wolf signs an executive order to reduce gun violence in Pennsylvania.

"We need to protect all of our lives," said Gov. Wolf. "Everywhere in Pennsylvania."

Many supporters say this order is the first of its kind, nothing like it ever enacted by a president, governor or mayor in the U.S. The order contains five key parts:

  1. Creating a special council on gun violence
  2. Installing new oversight and data sharing
  3. Reducing community gun violence
  4. Combatting mass shootings
  5. Halting domestic violence related and self-inflicted shootings

'All of the actions I'm taking," said Wolf. "They strike a balance between freedom and safety."

Governor Wolf’s Executive Order will immediately implement the following:

Special Council on Gun Violence:

  • Housed at the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), the Special Council on Gun Violence will consist of representatives from the following:
  • One representative from each of PCCD’s existing advisory committees, including the Children’s Advocacy Center Advisory Committee, Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, the Mental Health and Justice Advisory Committee, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee, the Victims’ Services Advisory Committee, the School Safety and Security Committee, and the Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Education and Training Board;
  • One representative from each of the four legislative caucuses of the General Assembly or their designees;
  • The Secretaries of Education, Health, and Human Services, the State Police Commissioner, the Executive Director of PCCD, and the Director of the Office of Homeland Security;
  • Any other ex-officio member as designated by the Governor.
  • The Council will meet within 60 days of the signing of the Executive Order and will be responsible for the following:
  • Adopting a public health and community engagement strategy that includes gun owners, health care professionals, and victims of gun-related incidents,
  • Reviewing current background check processes for firearms purchasers and making recommendations for improvement,
  • Reviewing best practices and making recommendations that keep weapons from dangerous individuals,
  • Identifying and defining strategies across Commonwealth agencies to align resources to reduce gun violence, and
  • Providing PCCD and the Senior Advisor with recommendations to reduce incidents of community violence, mass shootings, and domestic violence, suicide, and accidental shootings within 180 days of the initial meeting of the Council.

New Oversight and Data Sharing

  • Establish the Office of Gun Violence Prevention within PCCD and the Division of Violence Prevention within the Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Promotion and Risk Reduction. Together, the offices will tackle gun violence and prevention from both the public safety and public health perspectives.
  • Charles Ramsey, Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, will serve as senior advisor to the Governor, leading the commonwealth’s efforts on gun reform.
  • Charge the Office of Gun Violence Prevention with coordinating a system of focused police deterrence in neighborhoods and cities where violence is most extreme; work with other Commonwealth agencies and stakeholders on community gun violence prevention; and lost and stolen firearms reporting requirements for law enforcement.
  • PCCD will staff the new Special Council on Gun Violence, which will meet within 60 days of the executive order signing to begin developing a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence.
  • Direct all departments to engage in a statewide effort at combatting the systemic causes of violence, namely poverty, economic opportunities, mental and behavioral health supports, and hopelessness.
  • Establish a Violence Data Dashboard to provide a better understanding of the scope, frequency, geography, and populations affected by violence, including counts, rates, and factors contributing to violence.

Reducing Community Gun Violence

  • Expand and support gun buyback programs through the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) and municipal police departments.
  • Direct PSP and the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission (MPOETC) to develop training on community gun violence prevention and focused deterrence.
  • Increase data sharing among jurisdictions to ensure broad geographical data is represented and tracked at the state level.
  • Partner with the courts to grow awareness and utilization of evidence-based juvenile justice programs that are proven to reduce violent crimes.
  • Expand Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS), a proactive approach to improving school safety and promoting positive behavior, in schools statewide.

Combatting Mass Shootings

  • Charge PSP with expanding their monitoring of hate groups, white nationalists, and other fringe organizations and individuals, and conducting investigations, online and in communities, related to any threats of violence by these groups or individuals.
  • Expand the “See Something/Send Something” program to receive reports of suspicions of mass shootings by text and use a campaign to raise awareness of the ability to contact police by text.
  • Coordinate PSP and MPOTEC with local first responders to develop training on how to facilitate and handle warnings of suspicions of potential mass shootings.
  • PSP and PA Capitol Police will coordinate with agency secretaries to offer active shooter/incident management training to all employees, not just management.
  • Enroll Pennsylvania in the “States for Gun Safety” coalition, a multi-state partnership charged with combatting the gun violence by sharing information and establishing the nation’s first regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.
  • Direct the Office of Homeland Security to launch an awareness campaign regarding the local, state, and federal resources on safety planning and preparedness.

Halting Domestic Violence-Related and Self-Inflicted Shootings

  • Direct the Suicide Prevention Task Force to make immediate recommendations on steps to reduce suicides by gun.
  • Build on current Mental Health Stigma campaigns that provide families and communities with real stories and statistics as well as information about how to access resources.
  • Develop a multidisciplinary Suicide Death Review Team to increase data collection and inform preventions efforts and policy decisions.
  • Increase awareness of and strengthen services within the Student Assistance Program, which allow school districts to provide mental health referrals, across the commonwealth by providing technical assistance.

The Governor is also calling on the General Assembly to pass safe storage legislation, red flag law, lost or stolen gun reporting, and strengthen universal background checks on all gun purchases.

In response to Governor Wolf's executive order, House Republican Caucus Spokesman Mike Straub tells FOX43:

Public safety is a core function of government, and one life lost to violence is one too many. Gun deaths have impacted every community in the Commonwealth and the House has consistently worked to address criminal violence. According to state police records, those reforms that have helped reduce violent firearm offenses by nearly 40% statewide since 2006.

The suspect in the Philadelphia police shooting has a long history of gun and violent crimes. He is in violation of several existing laws by possessing a firearm and violated dozens more when he opened fire. It proves once again that criminals will not follow changes we make to existing firearm laws, and we must examine the root cause of violence, distress and mental illness in our communities before we force changes upon the millions of Pennsylvanians who legally and responsibly own firearms and obey our laws.

We also encourage the Governor to join us in addressing suicide in Pennsylvania, which is the responsible for 60% of all gun related deaths in the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania’s existing background check law already exceeds that of the federal government, and you can not buy a handgun from any dealer, private or public, gun show, store or elsewhere, without going through a background check in our state.

The House Judiciary committee held a series of hearings last session addressing gun deaths in Pennsylvania. Those hearings have resulted in more than a dozen bills currently working through the legislative process. Our committee leadership is working now to determine the next steps for many of these bills and we look forward to continuing to address violent crime, and how those responsible are held accountable.

The executive order in its entirety can be found here.

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