HARRISBURG, Pa. — A rally against gun violence brought hundreds to Harrisburg on Thursday to call for more gun control laws.
A rally organized by CeaseFirePA and March for Our Lives marks the fifth year since the group was founded following the Parkland High School shooting in Florida. Similar rallies are being held Thursday through Saturday in the state capitals of Florida, Michigan, California and Texas.
Emotions ran high at the rally as a parade of survivors named their loved ones lost due to gun violence and spoke on the devastating impact of gun violence on communities and families.
Protesters called for four main measures to combat gun violence: universal background checks, a requirement to report lost or stolen guns, safe storage laws and a ban on assault-style weapons.
“I’m tired of seeing them lay on the ground because y’all don’t want to change your laws,” said Julie Bush, whose son, Chazz, died at 21 due to gun violence. “Change your laws.”
Pennsylvania Democrats think they have a new opportunity to change state law due to their new majority in the state House.
“We are dedicated to saving lives, to working across the aisle to ensure that not only do we change our laws as it relates to being able to get guns, but that we make sure we invest to prevent violence to get to the core of this mindset, the mindset that it’s ok to hurt someone, that it’s ok to end their lives,” said Speaker of the House Joanna McClinton (D-Phila.).
Following the rally, the House Judiciary Committee held its first hearing this session on gun control measures.
Several pieces of legislation have already been introduced this session, including a “red flag” law, a measure that would require first-time gun owners to get certified and a measure that would give state law enforcement broader jurisdiction to pursue gun crimes.
Gov. Josh Shapiro has expressed support for gun control measures, calling the current level of violence “unacceptable.”
Gun control measures still face steep odds, though, as Republicans retain control of the Senate.
Republican lawmakers in both houses have been wary of any additional gun control measures.
“Passing more laws is not going to get to the reason why we have violence in Pennsylvania. Again, we’re in favor of a holistic approach,” said House GOP spokesperson Jason Gottesman, who added that Pennsylvania already has a strong background check system for gun sales.
The rally comes when no major gun control legislation has been passed federally or at the state level for decades. In June 2022, the federal government did pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which provided funding for but did not require state “red flag” laws, closed the “boyfriend loophole,” and expanded background checks for gun purchasers under 21.