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State Rep. Dan Frankel Says Gun Violence A Public Health Issue, Hopeful For Bipartisan Support

Ariel Worthy
State Rep. Dan Frankel talks to a panel of organizers during a policy committee hearing on gun violence as a public health issue.

State Rep. Dan Frankel says he wants guns to get the same attention that e-cigarettes recently received after President Donald Trump announced an effort to force e-cigarette companies to take flavored vaping products off the market. Gun violence kills thousands in this country every year, said Frankel, a Squirrel Hill Democrat.

"Public health initiatives have been successful in the past," he said after a hearing on the impacts of gun violence Friday. "Gun violence should be a public health issue and addressed in the same way."

Frankel and other Democratic legislators including Ed Gainey, Dan Miller and Dan Deasy attended the hearing at the University of Pittsburgh, medical professionals, activists and local officials testified about the long-term impact of gun violence.

Dr. John Rozel, a professor of psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh, said the impact on families after a shooting death lasts for months. Professionals are just now figuring out how to help those people, he added.

"Everything is not magically better when the bullet clinks into the pan like you see on TV shows," he said. "The impact on those families in communities after death by firearm, the impact on the individual and the family of those who survive ... last weeks, months, a lifetime."

Other speakers included Ross Watson, a violence-prevention program manager with the Allegheny County Health Department, and Erika Strassburger, who represents Pittsburgh City Council District 8.

Strassburger talked about opposition to city gun-control ordinances passed by local officials earlier this year.

"We faced almost immediate pushback from some people who were intending to intimidate us online and in person," she said. "There was a call by a colleague for a post-agenda hearing that invited a number of people who were not in favor of any gun regulations. [We had to] combat any misinformation shared."
She also described a public hearing on the bills as "tense and intense" and required additional security.

Frankel said he is hopeful that there will be more bipartisan support for gun laws.

"I'm very optimistic that, based on the success we had a year ago, we have an opportunity to continue to have some legislative bipartisan success on things like background checks," Frankel said.

Last year the state passed legislation that makes it easier to take guns from people who have been convicted of domestic violence.