Peduto, Moms Demand Action founder call for passage of gun laws
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto on Tuesday called for Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass gun regulations — including a ban on military-style rifles — within 30 days.
Standing with Shannon Watts, founder of the anti-violence group Moms Demand Action, Peduto said such action is long overdue, citing the weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
Kim Stolfer, president of the Second Amendment advocacy group Firearm Owners Against Crime, agreed that government should act, but not with gun regulations. He said officials must determine what motivates mass shooters and use existing laws to stop them.
“What they’re advocating for will do nothing to stop these incidents,” Stolfer said. “What they’re advocating for are measures that have failed.”
Peduto and Watts, who was in Pittsburgh promoting her book “Fight Like a Mother,” met in the mayor’s office Tuesday morning. Speaking to reporters later, they urged lawmakers to enact universal background checks for gun purchases and so-called “red flag” bills that permit courts to seize a person’s firearms if the person is deemed a public safety threat.
Peduto said semiautomatic rifles such as those used by the gunmen in El Paso and Dayton should be outlawed along with the ammunition and accessories. He said Americans die daily through gun violence.
“All of these bills are stalled in committee,” the mayor said. “There has been enough debate on this issue. It’s time to say which side are you on and be able to vote. We’re calling on them in the next 30 days to do their damn job.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, said Monday he is optimistic a bill on background checks that he and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote in 2013 could have the momentum to become law. Toomey said he spoke with President Trump about the bill and the president indicated he wanted to work on it.
Trump addressed the recent mass shootings in a speech Monday and outlined ways to combat gun violence, including spotting the warning signs of violence online and elsewhere, reducing the glorification of violence in American culture, reforming the mental health system to make it easier to commit people and bolstering red flag laws. He did not call for bans on any weapons but touted his ban of bump stocks.
Watts said momentum in America is shifting to the side of firearms regulation. Activists have successfully lobbied for background checks in 21 states, red flag laws in 17 states and laws authorizing the removal of guns from domestic abusers in 28 states, including Pennsylvania, she said.
“The bottom line is we’re winning,” Watts said. “Going into the 2020 elections, we are stronger than we’ve ever been and the NRA is weaker that they’ve ever been. The momentum is on our side.”
The NRA on Monday released a statement commending Trump’s speech.
“It has been the NRA’s long-standing position that those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms and should be admitted for treatment,” the NRA said.
Stolfer said homicide rates have risen in states such as California and Maryland that have enacted gun laws.
“California is the No. 1 gun control state in the country. It is also the No. 1 mass murder state in the country,” he said. “Gun laws only affect law-abiding citizens.”
Watts started Moms Demand Action seven years ago from a Facebook page following a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 people dead, including 20 children. It now has more than six million supporters.
“For too long the gun lobby has been writing our nation’s gun laws,” Watts said. “They have about a 30-year head start. … We are now finally going toe-to-toe with the gun lobby. We have seen our lawmakers change their minds. Time is of the essence and we need them to act.
“We need to show lawmakers that when they do the right thing that we’ll have their backs. When they do the wrong thing, we will have their jobs.”
— NRA (@NRA) August 5, 2019
Peduto said he and council members, who voted in favor of Pittsburgh’s firearms regulations, have been sued and threatened with criminal charges and impeachment. He vowed the city would push the gun ordinances to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court if necessary.
“We are still going forward with the legal cases,” he said. “In the meantime, there are people elected to do their job that have failed to do their job in Washington and Harrisburg, and their leadership has proven that they don’t have the courage or the backbone to even vote.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .