The PA SAFE Caucus members discussed their legislative goals for gun safety reform during a news conference at the capitol building on Wednesday.
The meeting marked one month since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and occurred on the day students across the nation walked out of their schools, advocating for stricter gun laws.
During the conference, lawmakers spoke about their frustrations with passing legislation and specific House bills they would like to see move from committee.
PA SAFE co-chair Madeleine Dean said to listen to the students that are speaking out, because their wisdom and bravery is inspirational and that the time to say enough is enough is now.
“We can and must do something to combat this gun violence epidemic, not just to prevent mass shootings like in Parkland, but to combat the everyday violence that claims 33,000 lives a year in this country, and injures 80,000 others in the crossfire,” Dean said in a press release.
Special hearings about gun laws will be held on April 9–12, and members expressed their expectations for the hearings.
“We are pleased to see that the House Judiciary Committee will give members a chance to speak about important gun safety proposals,” PA SAFE co-chair Dan Frankel said. “But we also know that a hearing is not enough — we expect the chance to vet some of these bills on the House floor in the very near future.”
“Every gun murder is a tragedy and outrage, and every victim should matter. The upcoming hearings should be followed by votes on bills that can save lives. I’m a minister and I strongly believe that thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Pennsylvania Rep. Joana McClinton said.
State Rep. Steve McCarter spoke of house bill 2109, which will allow people to petition the court for a firearm restraining order.
“Family and close friends are often the first to notice early warnings signs of crisis in those they love,” McCarter said. “They are also often first in the line of fire. We have to give them a mechanism through which they can petition the court for a firearm restraining order and the protection that restraining order would provide — not only for them but for their loved one as well.”
Jami Amo, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, was also in attendance.
“There are tens and thousands of students who, like myself, have lived the terror of a shooting in their schools, and many more face it in their streets,” Amo said. “We have had enough.”
PA SAFE Caucus will be calling for legislation during the hearings that include: banning bump stocks; requiring background checks for all firearm purchases; requiring Pennsylvania to transfer existing mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS; banning large-capacity ammunition magazines; providing more funding for safe school initiatives; prohibiting people on the no-fly list from purchasing or possessing firearms; allowing concerned family members and law enforcement to file extreme-risk protective orders; requiring schools to timely notify parents when their children are involved in safety incidents at school; increasing training and education for school security officers; allowing people with mental or physical health concerns to voluntarily surrender their firearms and prohibiting a person who has been ordered to undergo involuntary mental health treatment from possessing a firearm, according to the press release.