Republicans in the state Senate have launched what’s being billed as a pro-gun caucus that its chairman says will work to counteract gun misinformation in the state government.
The Second Amendment Caucus will give its members “more opportunities to become actively involved in protecting and strengthening lawful firearms ownership,” Sen. Chris Dush (R-Cameron) said in a press release announcing the association.
Dush and 13 other senators—all Republicans serve as inaugural caucus members.
Dush told DVJournal he would be working to get more Democrats involved in the caucus, noting that the state House’s Second Amendment caucus, on which he previously served, has included Democrats as well as Republicans.
Dush said the newly formed caucus has no immediate legislative aims and instead focuses on promoting accurate firearm education.
“What we want to do is get together and start planning a way to deal with the misinformation coming from the left about weapons,” Dush said.
“The phrase about ‘gun violence,’ it’s about violence, period,” he argued. “Our society is going through social contagions with psychological issues and everything, and the violence isn’t just limited to firearms. The left, though, is using this increase in violence as an opportunity to try and focus on the instrument rather than the root causes of what’s causing the psychological issues.”
“We need to make sure that we’re getting the message out that we need to address the core issues that are the causes, and we need to remind people of why the Second Amendment and Article I, Section 21 of the Pennsylvania state constitution are there in the first place.”
The state constitutional article referenced by Dush, among the oldest gun rights provisions in the United States, stipulates that “the right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.” Gun advocates have pointed to this early code as evidence of the country’s longstanding culture of individual gun rights.
Dush argued that modern Pennsylvania is rife with gun laws in contrast to its pro-gun roots.
“Pennsylvania’s got more laws on the books dealing with firearms than you can shake a stick at,” he said. “I think if you just printed out the sections of the various codes that deal with firearms, and just those sections, I think it’s several inches thick.”
One of the problems with gun violence in the state, Dush said, is prosecutors don’t aggressively follow through with gun charges.
“We don’t have the prosecutors going after these things,” he said, claiming that the state sees “so many rap sheets of firearm charges” with hefty “mandatory minimum sentences,” and prosecutors end up “just dropping them over and over and over.”
“And you have guys who were repeat offenders whose firearms charges were never prosecuted,” he added. “If they start prosecuting those and going after those mandatory minimum sentences in the first place, you would see a drop in firearms used in the commission of a crime.”
Dush said the caucus is not looking to make splashy efforts to pass gun control laws, particularly as the House and Governor’s Office remain in Democratic hands.
“I’m not going to put stuff out there just to gain headlines,” he said. “If it hasn’t been introduced, we’re probably not going to unless someone comes out with something novel.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro has indicated his support for gun control laws. As attorney general, he voiced support for what he said was “a state’s authority to protect its citizens and establish gun safety laws.” Before his inauguration as governor, he suggested pursuing at least some gun regulations while in office.
Earlier this year, Sen. Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks) introduced an “assault weapons” ban meant to ban dozens of models of popular rifles in the state. Last month the state House passed two gun control laws: A “red flag” law and a universal background check law. Those bills remain pending in the Senate.
On June 12, at 11 a.m. on the front steps of the state capitol, the Pennsylvania Senate and House Second Amendment Caucus, Dush, and Rep. Abby Major (R-Armstrong/Westmoreland), along with other pro-Second Amendment legislators, will join with law-abiding firearm owners from across the commonwealth for the 2023 Right to Keep and Bear Arms Rally.