Com­mon-sense gun laws are long over­due

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - OPINION -

Let’s get the niceties out of the way right up front.

The Sec­ond Amend­ment is not go­ing away. Nor should it.

If you legally own a firearm, no one is com­ing into your home to take your weapons.

But none of that means that gun laws, par­tic­u­larly here in Penn­syl­va­nia, should not be up­dated, and some com­mon­sense new reg­u­la­tions be put in place.

At least that’s the think­ing of Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Mid­dle­town, and state Rep. Jamie San­tora, R-163, of Up­per Darby.

These Delaware County Repub­li­cans are lead­ing the charge in mak­ing much needed – and much over­due - changes in Penn­syl­va­nia gun laws.

Killion is the driv­ing force be­hind Se­nate Bill 501. It 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 their con­vic­tion, or af­ter a fi­nal pro­tec­tion from abuse or­der is is­sued against them.

San­tora stands be­hind House Bill 1400, which would beef up the state’s ridicu­lously lax back­ground check pro­ce­dures, man­dat­ing uni­ver­sal checks for all gun sales.

Killion’s bill passed the Se­nate on a 50-0 vote and moved on to the House.

Read that sen­tence again. You read it right. A piece of gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion was passed unan­i­mously by the Penn­syl­va­nia Se­nate.

The times, they are in­deed a changin’.

Two weeks ago, San­tora and a group of bi­par­ti­san leg­is­la­tors stood on the steps of the Delaware County Court­house in Me­dia urg­ing ac­tion on the mea­sure by the state House.

This week, the move­ment de­scended on Harrisburg. More than 700 peo­ple ral­lied in sup­port of the leg­is­la­tion be­fore hear­ings by the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

More than 11 groups took part in the rally to sup­port the pack­age of bills, which also in­clude mea­sures to ban bump stocks, place lim­its on mag­a­zine ca­pac­ity, and en­act a ban on the man­u­fac­turer and sale of semi-au­to­matic ri­fles.

All of this comes in the wake of the lat­est mass school shoot­ing that claimed the lives of 17 peo­ple – mostly stu­dents – in­side Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Fla. The atroc­ity has en­er­gized young peo­ple to de­mand ac­tion. They marched on state capi­tols, on Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and at their own schools.

This week those young voices joined hun­dreds of oth­ers in Harrisburg ask­ing for mean­ing­ful change.

A chant of “Vote, Vote, Vote,” filled the Capi­tol Ro­tunda.

They de­serve at least that, a vote by their elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives, a clear ref­er­en­dum on where they stand in the gun con­trol de­bate.

It is not go­ing to be easy. We fully sup­port Killion’s mea­sure to get guns out of the hands of do­mes­tic abusers as well as San­tora’s push for more in­clu­sive back­ground checks.

We know that is not go­ing to be an es­pe­cially pop­u­lar – and cer­tainly not unan­i­mous - stance. There are go­ing to be dis­agree­ments, es­pe­cially when it comes to semi-au­to­matic weapons.

It’s a dis­cus­sion that needs to hap­pen.

Re­search from the group Every­town for Gun Safety shows why Killion’s pro­posal is so direly needed. They in­di­cate only 14 per­cent of fi­nal pro­tec­tion from abuse or­ders is­sued in the state from 2011 to 2015 re­quired firearms to be re­lin­quished.

That should be the easy part. As ev­i­denced by unan­i­mous pas­sage in the Se­nate, the mea­sure has wide­spread sup­port across the state.

So should San­tora’s push to close loop­holes in the area of back­ground checks. We hope the House hears all those voices and takes ac­tion on this pack­age of bills.

“Com­mon sense” is some­thing of­ten ut­tered – but rarely seen - in Harrisburg.

The Penn­syl­va­nia Leg­is­la­ture has long been one of the “gun­friendli­est” rul­ing bod­ies in the na­tion.

But that was be­fore Park­land. That was be­fore we again wit­nessed the slaugh­ter of in­no­cent kids.

No one is sug­gest­ing that the Sec­ond Amend­ment be over­turned. But gun laws can and should be tem­pered. Es­pe­cially here in Penn­syl­va­nia, where such pro­vi­sions are long over­due.

Too many lives have been lost.

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