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Lawmakers, activists gather at PA Capitol pushing for gun law reforms

HARRISBURG, Pa. — On Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf and Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey hosted a rally to “remember gun violence victims” and ...

HARRISBURG, Pa. --- On Wednesday, Governor Tom Wolf and Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey hosted a rally to "remember gun violence victims" and "urge for federal and state gun law reforms."

In front of a bipartisan group of state lawmakers and others, the two prominent lawmakers said they believe there are actions that can be taken to prevent gun violence.

“We must stop killers from getting guns that make it so easy to kill," said Gov. Wolf.

Gov. Wolf laid out three gun reforms measures he says he would support as a "start:"

  • Extreme Risk Protection Order, or "Red Flag Law," legislation, which allows relatives or friends concerned about a person to request a judge to issue a protection order that allows law enforcement to remove firearms from someone a judge deems as a threat to themselves or others.
  • Universal background checks on all firearm sales.
  • Support for the U.S. House Resolution 8, or the "Bipartisan Background Checks Bill of 2019," which proposes closing loopholes on the federal level.

“These are three, concrete verifiable actions that legislators can take quickly to reduce the number of graves being dug for gun violence victims," said Gov. Wolf.

Sen. Casey voiced support for similar measures, while adding in calls to ban "military-style" assault weapons and limiting magazine sizes.

Julia Mallory of Harrisburg says she lost her 17-year old son, Julian, to gun violence two years ago.

She believes proposals such as stricter background checks and "Red Flag" laws can be a catalyst for gun violence prevention.

“I think it’s so convenient for us to think like ‘Oh, that’s over there, it’s those people, it’s out there, it’s up there,' you know? And so I think no one should really consider themselves exempt from experiencing this level of personal tragedy," said Mallory.

Robert Woodke from Uniontown spoke up during the rally, questioning the effectiveness of the law proposals.

He said he believes the issues surrounding violence involve a lack of education and consequences for young people.

He accused lawmakers of using "scare tactics" to punish law-abiding gun owners.

“I want to stand up against that ridiculous idea that it's the guns fault. That ‘Oh, if we didn’t have these guns, this violence wouldn’t happen.' Sure it would. They’re going to use a baseball bat, they’re going to use a knife, they’re going to use whatever is in their hand. Cain killed Abel with a rock, he didn’t use a gun,” said Woodke.

Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey has been outspoken on several potential measures:

  • Manchin-Toomey background check legislation: A proposal co-sponsored with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to extend background checks to all commercial sales of firearms.
  • NICS Denial Notification Act: A proposal co-sponsored with Senator Chris Coon (D-CT) that notifies local law enforcement when a convicted felon lies in an attempt to purchase a firearm.
  • Toomey has also voiced support for "Red Flag" laws.

Republican U.S. Congressman Lloyd Smucker of York and Lancaster Counties issued the following statement:

"I’m deeply saddened and troubled by the recent tragedies in our nation. My heart and prayers go out to the victims and their families and friends. These horrific events perpetrated by mentally deranged individuals should refocus Congress’s efforts to work together to find meaningful ways that avert these tragedies. We must find ways to identify those who exhibit the warning signs of pain and anger to prevent these terrible violent acts. I will continue to work to ensure our background check system is thorough and effective. As I’ve said before, racially motivated behavior and statements are unacceptable and unbecoming of our great nation."

Two state Republicans, state Rep. Todd Stephens of Montgomery County and state Sen. Thomas Killion of Delaware and Chester Counties, said they will work to bring forward respective "Red Flag" legislation for Pennsylvania.