Gun violence discussed at Friends meetinghouse
It’s been nearly six months since news broke that shocked the nation and brought national attention to a quaint New England town. Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., before killing himself, last December.
Police found Lanza was in possession of a semiautomatic AR- 15 assault rifle and two pistols — the weapons were legally registered to his mother — whom he also killed the same morning, according to news reports at the time.
Since the events unfolded, there has been ongoing debate surrounding gun legislation. On April 18 the U. S. Senate rejected an amendment to expand background checks on firearm sales, in addition to a proposal to ban some semi- automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons, according to news reports.
Against this background, residents of Abington and Cheltenham townships and the surrounding community participated in a discussion about how to abate gun violence during a Cheltenham Area Multifaith Council panel held at the Abington Friends Meetinghouse in Jenkintown May 9. Some of panelists included state Reps. Madeleine Dean, D- 153, and Steve McCarter, D- 154, Executive Director of CeaseFirePA Shira Goodman and licensed psychologist J. Lamar Freed.
“We are at a point now where we have weapons that can do grievous harm to a degree that nobody could have imagined and surely not the founders of our country when they put in the Second Amendment — ‘ the right to bear arms,’” McCarter said.
McCarter and Dean discussed legislation that supports “concrete” and “sensible” laws that will help create safer communities.
McCarter spoke in favor of Pennsylvania House Bill 758, which deems it unlawful to possess weapons undetectable through metal detectors or u- ray scanners.
The fear is that advances in technology such as 3D printers will be able replicate weapons using a type of plastic to create functional assault weapons, he said.
“These weapons will not be detectable going through scanners,” he said. “The only thing that would be detectable would be ammunition. The federal law on [ undetectable weapons] expires this coming fall and then there will be no law against carrying undetected weapons in the United States. Right now there is no movement in Congress to redo that particular law. This bill was [ proposed] in Pennsylvania to get the discussion going.”
Similarly, Dean spoke in support of House Bill 1010, which closes the background check gap.
In the 1990s there was a bill crafted that removed private sale of longer barreled weapons from background checks, she said.
“Private sale, gun show sale and Internet sale [ of weapons] don’t [ require] background checks,” she said. “This is a terrible gap in the law and is completely outdated.”
The intent of gun legislation, is not to take guns out of the hands of responsible gun owners, but keep them out of the hands of the people that shouldn’t have them, McCarter said.
Mental illness has been one of the most argued causes behind many of the nation’s most horrific acts of violence. Freed said the best way to reduce the violent acts such as homicides and suicides is to reduce factors of depression, addictions and impulsiveness in those who pose a risk. However, he said it’s also important that legislation does not infringe upon the rights of others.
will be more likely to avoid treatment if seeking treatment means they will be labeled and the rights they believe are inherit to their citizenship, such as gun ownership, are threatened, he said.
So what can communities do to abate gun violence? Goodman, of CeasFire PA – an anti- gun violence coalition – encouraged locals to participate in marches, vigils and contact legislators as ways to take stands against gun violence locally, nationally and globally.
Many of the locals who attended the meeting were in favor of firmer gun laws.
Carol Coffin of Glenside said she supported legislation that will keep guns and ammunition out of the hands of people who will do serious damage.
Robert Sloan of Wyncote labeled himself a “radical.”
“Disarm everyone cept the police and military,” he said.
Tom Dwyer, the clerk of the Abington Friends Meeting, seemed to sum up the spirit of the discussion when he said, “The nuaker position of peace is to say all causes of war and violence should be eliminated. Each of us should live the kind of life that would make the reasons to commit all violence, all gun violence and all war unnecessary.” exthe