HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Authorities could temporarily confiscate firearms and expand background checks for gun buyers, two bills passed Monday in the Pennsylvania House, where Democrats are using their majority to pass gun control measures. A multi-year stalemate in a politically divided government.
The party describes the proposals as relatively modest measures to reduce the gun trade, suicide deaths, random shootings and everyday violence. Republicans oppose the bills, saying they punish legal gun owners.
“While this is only the first step, by taking these common sense and responsible gun safety measures we have shown our neighbors and the community that we are listening and taking action, and that we stand with them in the fight against senseless gun violence,” House said. Speaker Joanna McClinton, Democrat of Philadelphia.
The “red flag” bill, which would allow a judge to order the confiscation of firearms if requested by family members or police, passed 102-99, with two Republicans voting with Democrats and one Democrat voting with Republicans. Nineteen states have similar laws, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. A leading gun control advocacy group.
Rep. Mike Schlossberg, a Democrat from Lehigh County, recalled his own struggles with mental health as he spoke in favor of the bill.
“I often wonder what would have happened that morning, February 3, 2002, if I had had a gun,” he said. “Some of you have been in that deep, dark place. But for those of you who haven’t, you need to understand that getting someone through a suicidal crisis moment — and it’s often just a moment — is the most critical thing you can do to save someone’s life.
But Republicans said the bill unfairly targets legal gun owners.
“The plan and strategy has always been and always will be to disarm law-abiding citizens,” said Republican Rep. Stephanie Borovich of Clinton County. “And to any Republican who thinks he can vote today: know that you are aiding and abetting the socialism and communism that the Democrats are pushing in this country.”
Another bill, passed 109-92, aims to expand background checks on firearms buyers in Pennsylvania and exempt private sales of shotguns, sporting rifles and semi-automatic rifles, known as the “gun show” loophole.
“This is not an important piece of legislation. It’s not a heavy lift,” said House Majority Leader Matthew Bradford of Montgomery County. “This is a modest bill with modest impacts that will have a real impact on some of the deadliest weapons in our commonwealth.”
A third bill, which failed by a vote of 100-101, would have required gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms to police within three days. Repeat offenders would face misdemeanor charges.
A fourth measure in the package, which would require the sale of long-barreled firearms with trigger locks, did not come up for a vote.
Bills that pass the House must still pass the Republican-controlled Senate, which has historically supported gun rights while working with Democrats to boost funding for anti-violence and mental health programs.
The measures come as the US is set for a record rate of mass murders in 2023. Gun violence in Philadelphia played a big role in the mayoral campaign.And the city is asking the state Supreme Court to allow its own gun control policy.
The Pennsylvania Legislature, long controlled by Republicans, has not seriously considered expanding gun control measures beyond 2018. With a newly established Democratic majority in the House, the House began this session’s debate on gun violence in March.
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