Guns & Safety
The issue of gun violence and safety is complicated and needs a multi-pronged set of solutions requiring bi-partisanship. All parties must come to the table with an open mind. Doing nothing because it’s complicated, or you’re adverse to one element of the package of solutions can no longer be our answer. We must compromise and act on many fronts to make a difference and begin to turn this crisis around. There are no easy solutions, but the tide is turning in favor of addressing the issue.
Penalties and Prevention
- Provide stronger protections to the public from people that have committed violent crimes.
- Enforce stronger sentencing guidelines for people that are unlawfully carrying firearms.
- Look at the disqualifying criminal convictions that prevent an individual from possession a firearm and making sure that list is comprehensive and complete.
- Implement universal background checks for all firearms, regardless of length of barrel.
Mental Health and Community Connections
- Support the implementation of court ordered public protection orders if a person is demonstrating dangerous mental health characteristics.
→ Known as Extreme Risk Protection, such an order would temporarily suspend an individual’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that a person is threatening to harm themselves or others. The person subject to that order must surrender their guns to police and will not be able to buy, sell, or possess other firearms with a judge determining the time frame of this suspension not to exceed one year.
- Provide in-school counseling and mental health services to students and create early intervention opportunities.
→ Placing skilled, trained mental health counselors in schools to identify children facing problems and acting to treat them, could be the difference in preventing violent situations later.
- Stop paying lip service to the issues surrounding mental health but rather begin investing in solutions.
School and Community Safety Programs
- Continue investing in security.
→ The General Assembly adopted Act 44 in June of 2018 which provided $60 million to schools as grants to invest in school infrastructure and mental health professionals to improve safety and security. This investment is being driven by the School Safety and Security Committee, which is also charged with providing schools guidance on best practices for using school safety assessments and certifying vendors for schools to use to conduct the assessments.
→ Included in the Act was a dedicated funding stream to provide new money to municipalities, universities, and community organizations that are developing research and data driven programs that prevent community violence. Intervention on the ground will go a long way to reducing gun violence.
- Prohibit the ownership of assault weapons, such as the AR-15, and high capacity ammunition feeding devices and other accessories.
Responsible Investments by Pennsylvania Retirement Funds
- End the funding stream from the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and employee contributions for retirement that flows to manufacturers of assault weapons, large capacity ammunition clips, or gun accessories that may end up being used to kill school children, teachers, or anyone else.
Gov. Tom Wolf Signs Executive Order on Gun Violence
August 16, 2019: Governor Tom Wolf signs an executive order to make sweeping changes to executive branch agencies and programs to better target the public health crisis of gun violence. The executive order is the result of months of work by Governor Wolf and his administration to focus on substantive steps that can be taken to reduce gun violence and make communities safer. Governor Wolf was joined by Senators Jay Costa and Anthony H. Williams.
Restrictions on the Sale and Purchase of Military Grade Weapons and Accessories
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to put restrictions on the sale and purchase of military grade weapons and accessories.
According to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a military grade weapon is defined as having the capacity to release a large amount of ammunition in a short amount of time all while the user keeps complete control of the weapon. Accessories to these weapons are added with the purpose of causing additional harm to the proposed target in a manner more efficient than before. Military grade ammunition can also be easily purchased, including body armor piercing bullets which are colloquially called “cop killers” on the streets. These accessories and others were made for no purpose other than taking the life of another human being.
Senate Bill 138 – Safe Storage of Firearms
Millions of children live in homes with easily accessible firearms. A 2018 study found that 4.6 million minors in the U.S. live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm. In fact, most children know where their parents keep their guns — even if their parents think otherwise.
From 2005 to 2014, roughly 20,000 American minors were killed or seriously injured in accidental shootings; the majority of those killed in these tragic accidents were aged 12 or younger. Child access prevention (CAP) laws are an important tool for reducing these preventable shootings. Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have enacted child access prevention laws – Pennsylvania isn’t one of them.
Senate Bill 90 – Extreme Risk Protection Orders
This legislation that will add Pennsylvania to the growing list of states that utilize Extreme Risk Protection Orders. This life-saving policy can help protect our communities from mass shootings, firearm suicides and other acts of gun violence.
An Extreme Risk Protection Order (“ERPO”) provides a mechanism for law enforcement and loved ones to request a Court order to temporarily restrict an individual’s access to firearms when they clearly present a danger to themselves and others. All requests for an ERPO must be based on the observations and safety concerns of local police officers, family members or other loved ones, all of whom are seeking the Court’s help with the goal of preventing firearm tragedies.
Senate Bill 88 – Universal Background Checks for Firearms
This legislation eliminates most of the exceptions to the requirement of a background check prior to the purchase or transfer of a firearm. The close familial transfer exception to the background check requirements would remain under this legislation. Senate Bill 209 was the product of continuing work on this issue with various stakeholders.
Currently, the Crimes Code requires firearm sales be conducted in front of a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer, or county sheriff. However, this provision is only applicable to short-barreled firearms. Long barrel firearms, such as semi-automatic rifles, are not currently subject to these restrictions. This legislation would remove this applicability provision and require all firearm sales, regardless of the barrel length, be conducted in front of a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer, or county sheriff.
Senate Bill 254 – Assault Weapons Ban
This legislation would enact an assault weapons ban in Pennsylvania. This bill would mirror language that is very similar to what was enacted in Connecticut after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which is considered to be some of the toughest in the nation.
Under Pennsylvania law, both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines are legal. There was a federal ban on these types of weapons nationwide which began in 1994. However, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004 and the sunset provision was never renewed. For the 10 years that the injunction was in effect, it was illegal to manufacture the assault weapons for use by private citizens. The law also set a limit on high-capacity magazines – these could now carry no more than 10 bullets. However, any weapon or magazine that was manufactured before the law went into effect in 1994 was perfectly legal to own or resell.
Our Members at Work
Senator Santarsiero Calls for Legislative Action After Governor Wolf Signs Executive Order to Address Gun Violence Epidemic
HARRISBURG − August 16, 2019 −After Governor Wolf signed an executive order aimed at curbing gun violence in Pennsylvania, state Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10), co-chair of the PA Safe Caucus, called on legislative leaders in the state...
Sen. Hughes releases statement supporting Gov. Wolf’s executive order to reduce gun violence, calls for majority leaders to act on existing gun legislation
Philadelphia, PA − August 16, 2019 − State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) issued the following statement supporting Gov. Tom Wolf’s executive order to reduce gun violence: “As a result of some excellent policing along with a few miracles, no police...
Senator Street Offers Legislation to Restrict Military Grade Weapons in wake of Philadelphia Shooting
Philadelphia, PA − August 15, 2019 – Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), today joined Philadelphia Mayor Ji Kenney, Senator Bob Casey, Congressman Evans and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Ross along with a host of elected officials from every level of government...
Philadelphia, PA − August 15, 2019 − Senator Larry Farnese released the following statement on police officers' shooting last night in North Philadelphia: “Last night's shooting in North Philadelphia was devastating and we were reminded those who serve in our police...
Royersford, August 7, 2019 – Sen. Katie Muth (D-Berks, Chester, Montgomery) is continuing her call for the governor and legislators to return to Harrisburg to address the gun violence epidemic. On Wednesday, Muth joined the bicameral PA Safe Caucus and supported a...
SPRINGFIELD − August 6, 2019 − Members of the PA SAFE Caucus, a bicameral group of legislators dedicated to reducing all types of violence, today sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf to call for a special joint session to address gun violence and violent ideology. “The...
Philadelphia, Pa. − August 6, 2019 − Following the weekend’s rash of gun violence across the nation, and the epidemic of gun deaths plaguing Pennsylvania, Senator Larry Farnese has joined a bicameral group of legislators calling for a special session to address...
HARRISBURG - July 10, 2019 - State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) announced plans to introduce legislation that would repeal the recently granted concurrent jurisdiction given to the Pennsylvania Attorney General in gun-related crimes, such as...
HARRISBURG - June 24, 2019 - Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus today jointly sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf requesting a disaster declaration for gun violence in the Commonwealth. “We believe it is necessary to raise the public’s awareness of...
HARRISBURG - June 17, 2019 - Following a senseless act of violence on Father’s Day, and scores of other homicides in the city of Philadelphia and across the state, Senator Anthony H. Williams sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf asking for a state of emergency on the...
Senate Democrats Remember Victims of Gun Violence and Call for Action
Senate Democrats join Gov. Wolf and U.S. Senator Bob Casey for a bipartisan event in remembrance of the victims of all gun violence and as a call-for-action after a weekend of mass shootings and a continued deaf-ear response from federal and state lawmakers to take up stricter gun laws.