Pennsylvania Senate leader has ‘no plans’ to move House-approved gun safety measures

A Democratic-led state House committee on Tuesday advanced two more bills on gun safety, aiming to be more palatable to Republicans, despite new indications that gun reform remains difficult largely along partisan lines.

These measures – which require the storage of weapons and impose parental responsibility – are the latest proposed by the Democratic-majority House of Representatives this session. Two previous bills were approved and moved to the Republican-controlled Senate, where the Judiciary chief said this week she had no intention of introducing them.

“I have no plans to move forward with the bills,” Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Lisa Baker, D-Luzerne County, wrote in an email Monday regarding the two House bills already before her committee.

“I said we would invite proposals from anyone who represents some sort of consensus on approaches that are constitutional, workable and workable. To date we have not received such a proposal.”

One of the new bills approved by the House Judiciary Committee on party-line votes would make parents and guardians liable for acts — negligent or willful misconduct — committed by their children with a firearm if the parent gives them access to the gun.

The law applies only if the adult knows that the child has a delinquent or criminal background, or has reason to believe that the child is vulnerable to violent or criminal behavior. The original version of the bill specified criminal and civil liability, but it was amended to limit civil damages only

The second bill would require weapons to be placed in a locked container or “a place that a reasonable person would believe to be safe” if they knew a child could access them.

Violations will begin as a summary offense with subsequent offenses as a misdemeanor; The original bill included language allowing criminal charges to be filed if a weapon was used in a crime or caused injury or death, but that was removed.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Darisha Parker, D-Philadelphia, pointed to recent mass shootings — such as the 2021 Michigan high school killings — that resulted from “irresponsibility and lack of situational awareness” by parents who ignored warning signs and let their children By obtaining weapons. .

Republicans countered that obstacles to that already exist, with Rep. Tim Bonner, R-Mercer County, saying, “I’m not sure this bill is necessary, or the previous bill was necessary,” given that “we have solutions under the law.” . Criminal law can and is used, such as reckless endangerment and even manslaughter charges in cases of gross negligence.

Both bills address the same issue as a broader secure storage bill that passed committee earlier this year, but has not been brought to the House floor for a full vote. The bill was part of a four-part package, from which the House passed two bills — universal background checks and a “red flag law,” while a measure for mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns failed by one vote.

“Our committee wants to make this a clear priority, that we will work to strengthen gun violence prevention,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery County, said when asked if the two new bills were intended to be a replacement for the law. Secure storage invoice.

“It’s a conversation we need to have with as many caucus members as possible,” Briggs continued. “Right now, our committee is forwarding the bill and we will call for a vote on it.”

Democrats’ firearms bills have won only a few Republicans in past votes, with most GOP members saying the issue could be addressed through stricter enforcement of existing laws, especially in Philadelphia.

“I cannot support more gun control and punitive measures against law-abiding gun owners when laws aren’t enforced — yes, I’ll go there — in a first-class city,” said Rep. Rob Kaufman, R-Franklin. County, Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Chris Raab, D-Philadelphia, responded by saying that using Philadelphia as a scapegoat is “deeply disturbing and insulting,” and said it is “problematic that we continue to center this conversation around the perceived disarray of the law in Philadelphia” given the serious gun issues. Especially suicides – in rural areas of the Commonwealth.

Raab also criticized Republicans’ rhetoric on law-abiding gun owners, given that the bills under discussion are intended to address situations that are technically legal but not ethical.

“These parents are often law-abiding gun owners who leave their guns to their children to do any number of things. It’s legal, but it’s a problem,” Rapp said. “The irony of this criticism is that we are the law makers. We decide what is law-abiding by creating, amending, and repealing state law.

Since the first batch of bills moved in the spring, gun safety advocates have pushed to get them across the finish line. At a press event Monday, CeaseFire PA unveiled a countdown clock that will remain in the Capitol’s East Wing lobby, counting the number of days Baker and Senate Republicans have not acted on House bills.

“It is a failure of the Senate because we failed to move or pass this bill,” Sen. Amanda Cappelletti, D-Montgomery County, said of the universal background checks bill.

The bill would require background checks for all gun sales, including long gun sales between parties who are not currently licensed and exempt dealers.

The second bill passed by the House would create “extreme risk protection orders” or ERPOs, often called “red flag” laws, which allow judges to order the temporary confiscation of a person’s firearms if they are found to pose a danger to themselves or others. .

Republicans rejected such ideas. Baker said Monday that the issue “will be more appropriately addressed by updating the Mental Health Procedures Act as it relates to gun rights to ensure that those in need receive treatment and maintain due process.”

Pennsylvania’s involuntary mental health commitment law prohibits anyone from possessing weapons. Advocates of red flag laws have said their goal is to create a choice between allowing a disturbed person unrestricted access to firearms and institutionalizing them against their will.

Some Democrats have suggested that some gun measures could pass through the Senate if called for by GOP leadership. Given the 28-22 split, Democrats will need the support of three Republicans.

“I’d like to believe there would be a few people who would do it, but I can’t speak for them,” Cappelletti said.

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