HARRISBURG, PA — After two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio left 31 dead and dozens injured, Gov. Tom Wolf has once again called for gun safety legislation and reforms. …
HARRISBURG, PA — After two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio left 31 dead and dozens injured, Gov. Tom Wolf has once again called for gun safety legislation and reforms.
“The Tree of Life shooting made clear the imminent danger of hatred mixed with powerful guns,” Wolf said, referencing the mass shooting in Pittsburgh in October 2018. “Unfortunately, as a country and a commonwealth, we have failed to address these dangers, or adequately respond to gun violence that plagues communities, large and small, on a day-to-day basis.”
Wolf has not, at press time, reconvened the legislature for a special session on gun violence, despite urging from some PA Democrats to do so.
Wayne and Pike counties’ state representatives all have a history of voting against gun control legislation for the commonwealth, according to a nonprofit that tracks PA representatives’ voting records on gun control.
The governor said that the “most immediate step” is for the U.S. Senate to reconvene and pass House Resolution 8, or the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which would require unlicensed gun sellers to make transfers or sales through licensed dealers. H.R. 8 passed in the House of Representatives this past February, with Wayne and Pike counties’ U.S. representative Matt Cartwright voting yes on the bill.
Cartwright, a Democrat, has a history of supporting broader gun control. He joined other Democrats in a sit-in protest on the House floor in 2016, demanding that gun control legislation pass before the House broke for a weeklong recess. More recently, Carwright said he believes “something needs to change.”
In the Senate, Democrat Bob Casey is likely to vote yes on any incoming background checks legislation. Throughout his career, he has supported various bills to prohibit individuals who have committed hate crimes, engaged in domestic violence, or been placed on the Terrorist Watchlist from obtaining firearms.
Casey released a statement of his own after the weekend of mass shootings, also demanding that the Senate reconvene to vote on universal background checks. He had harsh words for fellow legislators who have resisted gun control legislation, “Politicians who refuse to take action to reduce gun violence are complicit in this carnage.”
Casey also pointed to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, saying that the “white nationalist ideology” the president espouses has inspired some of the “terrorist attacks” seen recently. “Over the last few years, we have seen a rise in hate crimes and we need to be honest about why,” he said. “We have a president of the United States that uses white nationalist rhetoric and engages in racism.”
Pat Toomey, PA’s Republican U.S. Senator, spoke to President Trump after the shootings. “Senator Joe Manchin and I separately discussed with President Trump our support for passing our bipartisan legislation to strengthen background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill and terrorists,” Toomey said on Twitter. The Manchin-Toomey bill would expand background checks to all sales, including those done at gun shows or over the internet.
While members of the U.S. Congress wait to see if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will reconvene the Senate to allow for voting on universal background checks, Gov. Wolf lamented the lack of a “red-flag law.” A red-flag law would temporarily prevent someone in crisis from buying or possessing a gun.
“In Pennsylvania, as long as it is a private sale, any person can still buy an assault rifle to commit a mass shooting without a background check,” he said.