HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – This week, the Pennsylvania House passed a package of bills, which Republicans say will “make Pennsylvania safer through smart justice.”
Earlier, a gun safety rally was held at the Capitol, where advocates and Democratic lawmakers called on the General Assembly to pass new legislation like safe storage requirements and requiring a lost or stolen firearm to be reported within 72 hours.
Republicans say instead of creating new laws for legal gun owners, current laws need to be enforced to target illegal gun holders.
“Presently, like the rest of the country, Pennsylvania does not have a problem with not having enough laws and penalties on the books. We have a problem of local leaders and political prosecutors not enforcing the laws we have,” said House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) in a Wednesday evening press release. “This package of legislation will ensure a safer Pennsylvania by demanding current law be followed and enforced, crime victims have access to the rights and protections they should be afforded, and our cybersecurity efforts are expanded to prevent and combat attacks on our cyber infrastructure.”
Republicans say it’s all in an effort to reduce gun violence, especially in places like Philadelphia, where a Gun Violence Task Force may be on its way, by means of an amendment. According to Representative Craig Williams (R-Chester/Delaware), the task force will consist of multiple law enforcement agencies with the goal of preventing felons from possessing firearms.
“With agreement with the Attorney General’s office and the other side of the aisle, we’ve been able to put together what’s going to be called a Gun Violence Task Force that will have limited jurisdiction for the Attorney General to host a task force to investigate and prosecute crimes for felons in possession,” said Williams. “The Gun Violence Task Force will target previously convicted felons. Criminality and violence is overwhelmingly done by prior convicted felons in possession of a firearm, and we’re coming after them,” he added.
Included in the package are:
- House Bill 2238 (Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia): Amends the First Class City Home Rule Act to provide for term limits for the district attorney.
- House Bill 2271 (Rep. K.C. Tomlinson, R-Bucks): Amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to strengthen penalties on those who sexually extort their victims to such a degree that the extortion leads to serious bodily injury or death.
- House Bill 2275 (Rep. Martina White, R-Philadelphia): Amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to grant the attorney general the authority to investigate and institute criminal proceedings for a violation of certain firearm laws within Philadelphia.
- House Bill 1123 (Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Philadelphia): Amends the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Law to establish a fund under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) to be used to offer up a monetary reward to individuals who provide information leading to the capture and arrest of a perpetrator of criminal homicide of a law enforcement officer.
- House Bill 2464 (Rep Sheryl Delozier, R-Cumberland): Amends the Crime Victims Act to give crime victims legal standing.
- House Bill 2525 (Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Luzerne): Amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) to provide a process by which crime victims can request dissemination of criminal history investigative information which is relevant to a civil action arising out of the crime, provided the victim swears under penalty of law that the information is material and necessary to the civil action.
- House Bill 2412 (Rep. Craig Williams, R-Delaware): Amends the Administrative Code to allow the Pennsylvania National Guard to provide functional support for cybersecurity needs across the Commonwealth.
Both Benninghoff and Williams believe the package is a step in the right direction
“This package of bills is a significant step forward in giving our communities additional tools to keep Pennsylvanians safe, protect victims of crime, and defend critical infrastructure,” said Benninghoff.
“We’re going to make use of the criminal laws that are already on the books and crash in with it with more prosecutors and more law enforcement,” said Williams.
This week, Democrats, including Gov. Tom Wolf said they’re calling for common-sense gun safety legislation that is supported by the majority of Pennsylvanians. On Tuesday, Wolf called for legislation to address:
- Require reporting for lost and stolen guns within 72 hours
- Close loopholes and require background checks on all gun sales
- Require safe storage of firearms to keep guns out of the wrong hands to prevent accidental injury/death and suicides
- Create red flag laws to protect those who may be a danger to themselves or others