Following Saturday’s federal passage of the Bipartisan Safer Community Act, Pennsylvania is one of many states considering adopting so-called ‘red flag’ laws. Pennsylvania Congressman Dwight Evans and Pennsylvania state Senator Art Haywood held a press conference this morning to urge the creation of a red flag bill. If passed, Pennsylvania would receive $750 million for violence prevention aids, mental health support, and more.
“These state laws help ensure deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of individuals, said Evans. “These red flag laws are saving lives in 19 states, including four of the neighboring states right around us, but not Pennsylvania! Senator Art Haywood and I say [that] it’s time to change that.”
Senator Haywood said the federal money, provided as an incentive to pass new laws, would have a wide range of uses including suicide prevention. “Hopefully, this leadership from the national government will allow us to help individuals who are at an extreme risk to themselves and give the power to a judge to make a decision to take a gun away temporarily from [those] individuals.”
The passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, one of the biggest pieces of federal gun legislation in decades, is a rare moment of compromise. Congressman Evans noted that Senator Pat Toomey and Representative Bryan Fitzpatrick, both Republicans, voted in favor of the bill. “It’s clear to me that this is not a partisan issue. This is an issue about safety for our constituents [and] public welfare,” he said.
The federal bill comes shortly after an unsuccessful attempt by Senator Haywood at the state level; “We have not been able to get these extreme risk protection legislations passed in Pennsylvania. As recently as last week, I had conversations with my Republican colleagues to get red flag legislation passed in Pennsylvania and could not get the momentum to get it done,” he said, adding that he hopes the federal incentives will be enough to renew dialogue.
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Sam Searles is a Report for America corps member covering gun violence and prevention for WHYY News.