Editorial: Pa. officials make moves on guns
After a shooting, there are always calls for action.
The action usually gets mired in muck, from the responses that it’s too early to do anything while people grieve to the accusations of playing politics to the all-too-short wait until another tragedy captures the public’s attention.
Pittsburgh, and Pennsylvania, are actually doing something. Less than seven weeks since the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill, Mayor Bill Peduto stood with Gov. Tom Wolf, city council members and state legislators and announced action.
They aren’t starting at the top. They aren’t addressing federal regulation. They are doing what is in reach, proposing a ban on assault rifles within Pittsburgh city limits.
Pittsburgh, after all, is where authorities say Robert Bowers opened fire with an assault rifle and hand guns, murdering 11 people in a house of worship. Two police officers were shot responding. It makes sense that a community so profoundly affected would want to take steps to respond.
But will it work?
A state law prevents cities from taking gun laws into their own hands. That’s where Wolf and the legislators came in, vowing to take action to roll that back.
The question is whether that will work. Pennsylvania is famously a state that appreciates firearms. No one is going to forget Barack Obama’s 2008 comment about clinging to guns and religion, a remark that was aimed at the Keystone State and hit home hard.
But then there’s Sen. Pat Toomey, the Republican who was narrowly swept into his second term on Donald Trump’s coat tails.
In a meeting with the Tribune-Review Monday, Toomey talked about what will be coming up in Washington as the new Congress is seated, with Democrats holding the House of Representatives. He sees a future for the Manchin-Toomey bill, the proposal he authored with Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of neighboring West Virginia.
Manchin-Toomey was introduced in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which happened six years ago Friday, when 26 people — 20 of them first graders — were massacred by a young man with an assault rifle and two hand guns.
Manchin-Toomey died in the Senate in April 2013. It received just four Republican votes: Toomey, Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona. McCain died this year, and Kirk has since been replaced by Democrat Tammy Duckworth, but with Republicans still holding the Senate, it’s left to see if Toomey and Collins would be enough to help a reincarnated bill become law.
Toomey said he is a gun owner and a Second Amendment supporter, but that he believes strongly in background checks. What he doesn’t want to see is Democrats overreaching what he believes is possible and reasonable, like his bill, in favor of something more aggressive.
Maybe neither the Pittsburgh proposal or the federal law will happen. Maybe neither will work. Maybe they will.
But it is good to see a real start to a conversation about what needs to be done. The important thing is that the conversation not be abandoned.