Tak­ing guns from abusers is com­mon sense

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - OPINION -

No one has ever ac­cused our friends in Har­ris­burg of hav­ing an over-abun­dance of com­mon sense.

Maybe that’s why Se­nate Bill 501 con­tin­ues to sit await­ing ac­tion.

The leg­is­la­tion, in­tro­duced by state Sen. Tom Kil­lion, R-9, would force con­victed do­mes­tic abusers to re­lin­quish their firearms.

And not just to a friend or rel­a­tive, as the cur­rent law al­lows. That too of­ten has tragic con­se­quences.

In­stead 501 would man­date that per­son sur­ren­der firearms to law en­force­ment or a li­censed gun dealer within 24 hours of con­vic­tion, or af­ter a fi­nal pro­tec­tion from abuse or­der is is­sued.

Delaware County’s other Repub­li­can state se­na­tor, Sen. Tom McGar­rigle, R-26 of Spring­field, is on board, call­ing it a mat­ter of “com­mon sense.”

Sup­port is ev­i­dent across party lines. Democrats Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, and Sen. An­thony Wil­liams, also have signed on as co-spon­sors.

But the bill con­tin­ues to await ac­tion in Har­ris­burg.

Seek­ing to spark ac­tion on the leg­is­la­tion, a va­ri­ety of groups held a press con­fer­ence at the Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Church in Me­dia to vow sup­port for the mea­sure and to un­der­score the danger in not fixing the clear loophole in Penn­syl­va­nia law.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Delaware County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice and the Penn­syl­va­nia chap­ter of Moms De­mand Gun Sense in Amer­ica urged pas­sage of the bill.

“The threat of vi­o­lence from the fail­ure to dis­arm known and con­victed do­mes­tic abusers is not con­fined to the in­ti­mate part­ners of chil­dren of th­ese abusers,” said Mary­beth Chris­tiansen, the Penn­syl­va­nia leg­isla­tive lead for Moms De­mand Ac­tion. “It ex­tends to our first re­spon­ders as well.

“Fa­tal­i­ties can hap­pen any­where, and they’ll con­tinue to hap­pen un­less we quickly and ef­fec­tively dis­arm known and con­victed do­mes­tic abusers.”

The group put forth some re­search from the group Every­town for Gun Safety that in­di­cates only 14 per­cent of fi­nal pro­tec­tion from abuse or­ders is­sued in the state from 2011 to 2015 re­quired firearms to be re­lin­quished

And the study claims the change has wide­spread sup­port across the state. The group claims 82 per­cent of likely vot­ers in the state sup­port a ban on firearms to any­one con­victed of a mis­de­meanor crime of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

That does not comes as news to McGar­rigle.

Nei­ther does the fact that the bill has not moved much in the state Capi­tol. McGar­rigle knows well how strong gun­rights feel­ings run in many parts of the state.

McGar­rigle is hop­ing op­po­nents get on board with this “com­mon-sense” leg­is­la­tion.

“When we can iden­tify a way to re­duce the po­ten­tial for this vi­o­lence and do so within the pa­ram­e­ters of the con­sti­tu­tion, I be­lieve we should do it,” the se­na­tor said. “Re­quir­ing the re­lin­quish­ing of firearms … re­duces the risk of vi­o­lence for ev­ery­one in­volved: the vic­tim; the po­lice; and even the of­fender.”

McGar­rigle be­lieves the cur­rent 60-day win­dow is too wide, and too of­ten leads to re­tal­i­a­tion and vi­o­lence in th­ese volatile, of­ten emo­tional sit­u­a­tions.

The threat to po­lice and first re­spon­ders should not be un­der­stated.

In Novem­ber 2016 two po­lice of­fi­cers in Wash­ing­ton County, Pa., were shot as they re­sponded to a do­mes­tic dis­tur­bance af­ter 3 a.m. Of­fi­cer Scott Bash­ioum was killed; his part­ner Of­fi­cer Jimmy Saieva was wounded.

The sus­pect had re­cently been served with a three-year pro­tec­tion or­der from his wife, but did not have to sur­ren­der his gun.

Talk to many law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, and many of them will tell you that some of the most dan­ger­ous call they re­ceive are do­mes­tic in­ci­dents.

Penn­syl­va­nia State Trooper Lan­don Weaver was gunned down af­ter re­spond­ing to a call of a vi­o­la­tion from a pro­tec­tion from abuse or­der last De­cem­ber.

In 2016, 102 Penn­syl­va­nia res­i­dents lost their lives as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence – 56 women and 46 men – in­clud­ing two po­lice of­fi­cers.

Of those deaths, 56 were killed with a gun.

We know we’re go­ing out on a limb here ask­ing for “com­mon sense” in Har­ris­burg.

But in th­ese volatile in­ci­dents of do­mes­tic abuse, lives are in danger.

Just as it’s im­por­tant to get guns out of the hands of do­mes­tic of­fend­ers now rather than later, the Se­nate should take ac­tion on Se­nate Bill 501.

The sooner the bet­ter.

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