GOP state representatives from the Delaware Valley crossed the aisle to help Democrats pass new gun control bills.
One measure, a “red flag” law, would allow guns to be seized from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others with a judge’s approval. The legislation does not include many of the due process safeguards typically requested by gun owners. It passed the nearly evenly split House in a 102-99 vote. Two “yes” votes came from Bucks County Republicans Reps. Joe Hogan and K.C. Tomlinson. Flip their votes, and the measure would have failed.
The second proposal requires universal background checks for private, person-to-person gun sales, including rifles. Nine Republicans crossed the aisle to back it. Five of them were from the Delaware Valley: Hogan, Tomlinson, and Reps. Marcell (Bucks), White (Philadelphia), and Williams (Chester/Delaware).
The red flag bill was introduced by Rep. Jennifer O’Mara (D-Springfield).
“I introduced this bill because I lost my dad to gun suicide, and I want to do what I can to ensure no other family has to go through the tragedy that mine went through,” O’Mara said. “As a 13-year-old, losing my dad to suicide fundamentally changed my life. I hid that story from others for a long time out of shame because of the persistence of the mental health stigma. Addressing gun violence and mental health problems head-on, as this bill does, can help ensure that another kid doesn’t have to grow up the way that I did.”
The bill would require a hearing with evidence before a judge. The judge would then determine whether or not to issue the ERPO, which could last up to one year.
James Stoker, president of the Pennsylvania-based Firearms Owners Against Crime, said he believes the measures will likely die in the Republican-held Senate. He also believes they are unconstitutional.
“The idea of a red flag law is unconstitutional at best,” said Stoker. “It doesn’t do anything to prevent suicide. All it does is violate the due process rights of citizens.”
Many times, after a mass murder, investigators discover that people who knew the shooter was mentally ill are reluctant to tell anyone.
“So, you’re really not going to see the impact that they’re hoping for,” said Stoker. “And instead, you’re going to violate countless people’s constitutional rights. This will be a tool in child custody disputes and alimony settlements.”
Both of these gun control bills are expected to die in the GOP-controlled state Senate. But the House vote puts Pennsylvania in a movement across blue and purple states of increased gun regulation, according to the Second Amendment news site The Reload. It noted Michigan and Minnesota have recently passed gun control legislation thanks to Democratic victories in those state legislatures.
Last month, Colorado passed a longer waiting period for firearm sales and an increase in the minimum age to purchase a gun. Washington state passed a ban on so-called “assault weapons.”
Democrat Chris de Barrena-Sarobe, a career prosecutor running for district attorney in Chester County, praised the bills.
“If these gun safety bills become law, they will have an instant impact on our communities. These laws will prevent shootings. They will save lives. And they are all commonsense laws that Pennsylvanians want now.”
“The state Senate needs to move quickly to pass these bills. Our communities cannot afford a moment of hesitation,” said Barrena-Sarobe.
As for requiring universal background checks to purchase hunting rifles, Stoker sees hypocrisy at work.
“These are the same people who believe some folks are incapable of getting a photo ID to vote, which is an absolute insult when it comes to voter registration. But in the same breath, say, if you’re buying a firearm, you need that.”
Both are constitutional rights, he noted.
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