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PA Dems advance four gun-control bills.Photo: Katherine McAdoo/Unsplash

Pennsylvania House Democrats pass four gun safety bills in first full week of session as majority

The four gun-control bills passed Wednesday, April 26 through the House Judiciary Committee with all Republicans voted against.

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Pennsylvania House Democrats had a busy first full week of session since taking the majority, including the advancing four gun-control bills on Wednesday, April 26, that passed through the House Judiciary Committee along party lines. 

The bills can go before the House as early as this upcoming week. The four bills come just three months into Pennsylvania Democrats’ one-seat control of the Chamber after more than a decade of Republican majorities.

This is a drastic change for Republicans who, when they controlled the committee, never considered any such bills on gun control amid a politically divided government. 

Democrats described the bills as moderate measures strictly looking to reduce gun violence, trafficking, suicides and other accidents.

The first bill introduced by Rep. Darisha K. Parker (District 198) would require safe storage requirements for long guns. A locking device would have to be included with the sale of every firearm. The second bill introduced by Rep. Benjamin V. Sanchez (District 153) requires gun owners to report a lost or stolen firearm to police within three days. 

Failure to oblige means a misdemeanor charge.

The third bill introduced by Perry S. Warren (District 31) expands background checks on firearms buyers and would end an exception for private sales of shotguns, sporting rifles and semi-automatic rifles, also known as the “gun show” loophole, regardless of the barrell’s length.

The fourth bill introduced by Jennifer O'Mara (District 165) would allow a judge to call on the authorities to temporarily seize firearms from someone if requested by family members or police, also known as a “red flag law.” 

It would provide for Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) that could help reduce suicides in Pennsylvania. 

Among all Republicans who voted against the four bills, Rep. Rob Kauffman of Franklin County, said the measures were more symbolic than actual doable actions. 

“If folks are using guns illegally, they’re doubtfully going to be going through the law-abiding process to acquire that gun,” he said. “I appreciate the intent but it seems to be a lot of symbolism over actual substance.”

While Rep. Tim Briggs, a Democrat from Montgomery County, called the gun-control measures a responsibility. 

“We have a responsibility to protect our children, our neighbors, our schools, our houses of worship, our business, people in crisis and our law enforcement communities from the dangers of gun crimes of violence,” he said. “Today is a first step. I assure you it will not be the last.”

The bills come over a month after anti-gun violence advocates with March For Our Lives rallied and went inside during a legislative hearing in Harrisburg. It was their fifth anniversary since first starting in 2018 after the shooting that killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida. 

Similar rallies took place at state capitols in Florida, Michigan, California and Texas.

The bills are the first time the PA legislature has considered any tightening gun-control measures since 2018. If the bills achieve House approval, they still have to go before a Republican-controlled Senate. 

Other measures to advance out of committee on party-line votes include one to ban sexual orientation discrimination in housing, employment, and all other public accommodations. Another would give each county seven days to open and prepare mail ballots for a final count on Election Day, also known as pre-canvassing. 

More than a dozen bills were considered this week, and more than 40 were sent to the floor for votes by the full chamber. 

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