Taking guns from abusers is common sense
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.