Com­mon sense gun re­form is long over­due

The Boyertown Area Times - - OPINION -

It is a phrase we have heard hun­dreds of times from the peo­ple we send to Harrisburg and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to rep­re­sent us. Com­mon sense gun re­form. We heard it af­ter Columbine. And af­ter Sandy Hook. And af­ter Park­land, to say noth­ing of the mass shoot­ings that have hap­pened in places in ad­di­tion to our neigh­bor­hood schools.

Ev­ery time there was a mass shoot­ing in­ci­dent – such as the re­cent mas­sacre of those wor­ship­ing at a Pitts­burgh syn­a­gogue – there has been talk of re­form­ing gun laws.

And for the most part, the sound has been al­lowed to fade, much like the echoes of dis­tant gun­fire.

Backed by the power – and money – of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, seem­ingly ev­ery at­tempt to curb gun vi­o­lence with sen­si­ble re­form has been shot down.

For years, es­pe­cially here in gun-lov­ing Pennsylvania, it has been the third rail of pol­i­tics. Gun re­form leg­is­la­tion rou­tinely goes nowhere in Harrisburg.

But there are signs, both here in the Key­stone State and across the na­tion, that the tide may be shift­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately, there also are signs that it is not hap­pen­ing soon enough.

This started a few months back in the state Leg­is­la­ture with a plan to get guns out of the hands of those who have been con­victed of do­mes­tic abuse or who have a fi­nal Pro­tec­tion From Abuse Or­der lodged against them.

A pack­age with bi­par­ti­san sup­port, pushed by state Sen. Tom Kil­lion, R-9 of Mid­dle­town, changed the law, man­dat­ing that an abuser turn his or her guns over to po­lice or a li­censed firearms dealer within 24 hours.

Un­der the old law, abusers could sim­ply hand off their firearms to a friend or rel­a­tive, where they un­for­tu­nately too of­ten still had ac­cess to them with po­ten­tially deadly re­sults.

The mea­sure gained bi­par­ti­san sup­port and passed over­whelm­ingly in the House. Af­ter a strug­gle, the Se­nate con­curred.

It marked a break­through in Harrisburg in re­form­ing state gun laws — some­thing of­ten tried, but rarely ac­com­plished.

There also was an in­di­ca­tion of the chang­ing pol­i­tics of gun re­form on the na­tional level. Right next door in Ch­ester County, Demo­crat Chrissy Houla­han, a mil­i­tary veteran, made gun con­trol an in­te­gral part of her cam­paign. She cruised to vic­tory to fill the 6th Dis­trict seat in Congress be­ing va­cated by in­cum­bent Repub­lli­can Rep. Ryan Costello. Her op­po­nent was an NRA mem­ber.

The NRA is no longer tout­ing on its web­site the grades it rou­tinely as­signed to leg­is­la­tors. Ap­par­ently that one­time much-de­sired im­pri­matur from the gun group was be­com­ing a li­a­bil­ity for some can­di­dates.

This week state Au­di­tor Gen­eral Eu­gene DePasquale is­sued a set of rec­om­men­da­tions to com­bat gun deaths and vi­o­lence. And he says it can be ac­com­plished with­out chang­ing state laws.

His 20-page re­port fo­cuses on com­mu­nity ef­forts to at­tack the prob­lem and ex­pand­ing ac­cess to men­tal health ser­vices to ad­dress those prone to vi­o­lence.

Specif­i­cally, DePasquale wants county sher­iff’s de­part­ments to start call­ing the ref­er­ences given by those fil­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion for a con­cealed carry per­mit.

He’s also seek­ing the help of a va­ri­ety of com­mu­nity groups, in­clud­ing sport­ing groups, safety ad­vo­cates, law en­force­ment, med­i­cal and men­tal health prac­ti­tion­ers, firearms deal­ers and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence pre­ven­tion ad­vo­cates in his new push for firearms safety. We en­dorse his ef­forts.

They can’t come a mo­ment too soon for state Rep. Joanna McClin­ton. The Demo­crat who rep­re­sents parts of West Philadel­phia and east­ern Delaware County hosted a com­mu­nity meet­ing af­ter an­other shoot­ing in­ci­dent that left two teens wounded, along with an 8-year-old boy who was hit by a stray bul­let while sit­ting in his house.

The shoot­ing – in which as many as 25 gun­shots rang out – oc­curred right down the street from her of­fice.

We are not es­pous­ing in­fring­ing on any­one’s Sec­ond Amend­ment rights.

We hear­ken back to the same phrase that so of­ten ac­com­pa­nies this dis­cus­sion.

Com­mon sense: We’re all for it.

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