Hundreds of gun safety supporters rallied at the state Capitol on Monday for legislation sponsored by Senator Tom Killion to reduce shootings and gun suicides.
The rally was organized by the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action, one of the state’s largest gun safety groups. Killion’s legislation, Senate Bill 90, calls for Extreme Risk Protection Orders to be used to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who are a danger to themselves and others.
“One hundred people die every day from gun violence in this country, and two-thirds of these deaths are suicides,” said Killion. “My Extreme Risk Protection Order bill allows police officers and loved ones to petition the courts to temporarily remove weapons from disturbed and dangerous people. It will save lives,” he added.
Governor Tom Wolf joined the rally to thank advocates for traveling to Harrisburg to push for what he described as a common sense gun safety measure.
“It is time to end gun violence in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said.
Looking across the crowd gathered in the Capitol rotunda, Wolf added, “We have such a committed group that wants nothing more than to see Pennsylvanians live long, happy lives free of gun violence.”
Under Killion’s legislation, law enforcement, family members or household members could petition county Common Pleas Courts to issue an order temporarily prohibiting disturbed individuals from possessing a firearm. A judge would then weigh evidence presented at a hearing where the individual in question is able to be present.
If a judge orders the relinquishment of firearms, the guns can be returned to the individual after the original court order expires or after a new date is established at a subsequent hearing.
Killion noted that according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 people die every day from gun violence in the United States, nearly two thirds of whom are gun suicides. In Pennsylvania, there are 1,500 firearm-related deaths each year, with 62% of them being suicides.
Other rally speakers pushing for the passage of Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation included Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, Senator Jay Costa, Senator Art Haywood and Representative Jenn O’Mara.
O’Mara talked about how her father, a Philadelphia firefighter, used a gun to commit suicide in 2003.
“This was a tragedy that sent my family reeling,” O’Mara said. “More first responders are dying by suicide than in the line of duty. ERPO laws would have been a tool that my family could have used to try and save my father,” she added.
Another speaker at the rally was nineteen year old Robert Schentrup, whose younger sister, Carmen, was one of the seventeen victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018.
Schentrup said the shooter who killed his sister had demonstrated a pattern of disturbing behavior and that law enforcement visited the individual’s house forty times prior to the shooting, but police did not have the ability to remove firearms from the home.
“Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation is something that could have directly impacted the tragedy that affects me,” Schentrup said. He described how law enforcement approached victims’ families after the shooting about how an ERPO law is a tool that could have been used to save lives in this case.
“Extreme Risk Protection Orders are not only useful for mass shootings, but they are also imperative for helping reduce the suicide epidemic that we see in this country,” Schentrup said. “We need to make sure we have a tool for the intervention in these situations,” he added.
Extreme Risk Protection Order bills, also referred to as Red Flag laws, have passed in at least thirteen other states.
Killion’s Senate Bill 90 is currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Representative Todd Stephens has introduced similar legislation, House Bill 1075, in the House of Representatives.
CONTACT: Shannon Royer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 787-4712.