Three weeks after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 dead, there seems to be some momentum for action on gun reform bills in Congress and in the legislatures of states, including Florida and Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf is hoping that the cooperation between the legislature and executive branch, between Republicans and Democrats, that has been on display in trying to ease the ongoing opioid crisis will continue as elected officials tackle gun violence in our communities and schools.
“It's actually a heartening consequence of the really tragic situation in Parkland, but at the state level there is already bipartisan work on legislation to change our gun laws,” Wolf said.
According to the governor, since the 1999 school shootings in Columbine, Colo. there is now a whole generation of people who, “live with the specter of school shootings and are saying, ‘let’s do something about this, let’s stop saying it’s hard and actually get moving on this.’”
He said there are actions the state can take without waiting for Congress, including bipartisan legislation to prevent anyone convicted of domestic violence from getting a gun; banning bump stocks; and, eliminating the loophole that doesn’t require background checks on all sales by private dealers to buyers at gun shows.
“These are the things that I think would enjoy bipartisan support in a place like Harrisburg could actually get in and serve as a concrete response to the [Parkland] tragedy," Wolf said.
He added that state legislative action doesn't “relieve the federal government of the obligation to take a strong look at things like getting militarized weapons out of the hands of civilians and that we have a strong universal background check. That's a federal issue."
The governor also said he wants to create a bipartisan gun violence task force to examine other steps, especially to reduce school violence.
“Are there resources that the state ought to be sharing with school districts to allow them to do things that even now they want to do but can't afford to do so?" he said. "We ought to look at what we're doing and see how it's been working and then see if there are other things that we ought to do.”
A set of public hearings to explore legislation to help stem gun violence and mass shootings is scheduled for the week of April 9 in Harrisburg.
“It has become acutely apparent that measures need to be taken to prevent these situations from happening in the future,” wrote state House Judiciary Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, (R-Dauphin) in a letter Tuesday inviting House lawmakers to testify.