Two Democratic state lawmakers say they are prepared to heed Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s call for a vote on more restrictive firearms regulations and added that leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature won’t allow that to happen.
Republicans, however, have pointed to anti-violence laws they have passed and signaled a willingness to work on some aspects of gun legislation while protecting those who legally own firearms in the state.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa of Forest Hills and state Rep. Ed Gainey of Lincoln-Lemington, both Democrats, said Republican leaders are holding up “common sense” legislation, including expanded background checks for gun purchases and a so-called extreme risk protection bill allowing courts to remove guns from a person deemed a public risk.
“We don’t control the process,” Costa said. “It’s controlled by Republicans, and it appears that they’ve been tone deaf as it relates to wanting to do some of the things that need to be done.”
Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai of Marshall was unavailable for comment, according to his chief of staff.
Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, said the General Assembly last year passed the first anti-violence legislation in decades that deals directly with firearms and is prepared to build on that. The law she referenced requires that people convicted of domestic violence crimes or subject to final restraining orders surrender their guns within 24 hours. Kocher said Republicans are also prepared to consider extreme risk protection and school safety concerns.
“While many of the issues being raised should be addressed on a national level, we will continue to take a holistic approach to tackling the cause of these tragedies and continue to take action,” Kocher said in a statement. “At the same time, we understand that we cannot take action that will criminalize the millions of Pennsylvanians who responsibly and legally own firearms.”
Peduto on Thursday joined about 200 other mayors from across the country in calling for the U.S. Senate to return from its break and act on proposed firearms bills. The mayors in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, urged the Senate to vote on two bills expanding background checks for gun purchases.
Peduto earlier this week stood with Shannon Watts, founder of the anti-violence group Moms Demand Action, and urged state and federal lawmakers to vote on proposed gun bills within 30 days.
“I joined over 200 mayors — Democrat and Republican — today, calling on Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell to reconvene the U.S. Senate during their month-long vacation in order to be able to come back and do their job,” he said.
Nearly two-thirds of registered voters in a recent statewide poll said they favor some type of additional laws regulating gun ownership.
Gainey, who has proposed a ban on all military-style, semi-automatic rifles, said it’s time for bipartisan agreement that gun laws need to change.
“We need to let people know that nobody wants to take your guns, but there’s no reason why guns of mass destruction need to be on our streets,” he said. “If you continue to remain blind to something that’s going on, then it’s a statement that you’re OK with the amount of killing that’s going on.”