Pa. lawmakers, gun control advocates rally to change state firearms laws

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a rally to change Pennsylvania’s gun laws at the statehouse in Harrisburg Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (Emily Previti/PA Post)

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, speaks at a rally to change Pennsylvania’s gun laws at the statehouse in Harrisburg Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. (Emily Previti/PA Post)

This article originally appeared on PA Post.

Pennsylvania lawmakers and gun control advocates rallied at the statehouse Wednesday evening just a few days after mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

They called for expanding background checks and enacting a so-called red flag law already in place in 17 states.

State Sen. Tom Killion and Rep. Todd Stephens – both Republicans from the Philadelphia suburbs – are sponsoring companion bills that would let people petition the courts to temporarily disarm a loved one showing they’re a danger to themselves or others.

“It is time for us to enact extremist protection orders here in Pennsylvania. And I look forward to working with my colleagues this fall to get it done,” said Stephens, to applause.

He and Killion joined several Democrats including Gov. Tom Wolf, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and State Sen. Anthony Williams in the capitol rotunda along with representatives from CeaseFirePA and Moms Demand Action.

The scene mirrored one back in April when the same players tried to pass a similar measure in the wake of the shooting death of a 37-year-old mother by her ex-husband at a Wawa in Radnor, Delaware County.

At the same time, new gun regulations were taking effect in Pennsylvania for the first time in more than a decade: requirements that people give up their guns under all final orders on contested protection from abuse cases.

Killion says the PFA law’s passage still gives him hope that his bill can pass.

“We passed legislation that everyone said would never get [through] because it dealt with weapons. … Everyone said it couldn’t happen,” Killion said, noting the PFA measure ultimately passed out of the Senate 49-0.

Wolf hasn’t heeded demands to call the legislature back for a special session before their summer recess ends. Once back, lawmakers would choose how to proceed. They could vote on the measures – or to disband and resume their vacation.

“Both houses are majority, led by Republicans. If Republicans and Democrats truly want to come together and want to move quickly on this in a special session, I am absolutely happy to do that,” Wolf said Wednesday.

Wolf also expressed support for requirements to report lost or stolen guns during the rally as well.

But he focused his message on demanding lawmakers pass the extreme risk protection bill during the rally, and expanded background checks at the state and federal level.

Casey called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – as he and many others have been doing since last weekend  – for failing to bring up a background check expansion bill for a vote during the five months since it passed the U.S. House.

“At a minimum, the majority leader – if he’s not going to have us back this week, or next week – he should set a date certain for debating and voting on a number of measures,” said Casey, ticking off several that would institute a red flag law, ban military-style weapons and close background check loopholes.

Williams, who represents Philadelphia, noted that more than 1,000 people have been shot and killed during the past few years in his city alone.

“I don’t care whether you’re a Democrat, I don’t care whether you’re Republican. I don’t care whether you’re from Philadelphia. I don’t care whether you’re from the suburbs or rural Pennsylvania,” Williams said. “This is an indictment on humanity.”

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