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Three Years After Tree of Life Shooting, Continued Calls for Gun Reform

by Emily Scott, Keystone State News Connection

Three Years After Tree of Life Shooting, Continued Calls for Gun Reform

Wednesday marked three years since the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, where 11 people at the synagogue were killed in a targeted anti-Semitic attack. State leaders and gun-reform advocates say it’s time for the General Assembly to pass what they see as common-sense gun laws.

October 2018 also was the last time the Legislature enacted gun-safety policy. Since then, 4,600 Pennsylvanians have died from gun-related injuries. In a news conference at the state Capitol, Adam Garber, CeaseFire PA’s executive director, called on lawmakers to pass solutions to the state’s pervasive gun-violence problem.

“We need policies to give someone a pause before they take their life, as Sen. Fontana’s extreme-risk protection order does; and we need Sen. Hughes’ bill, that will close a hole in our background-check system that allows rifles and assault weapons to be privately sold without a background check,” Garber said, referring to Sens. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, and Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia. “The simple fact is, we do not have to live like this.”

Other proposals include a bill from Sen. Tina Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, that requires a firearm owner to report a lost or stolen gun within 24 hours to help stop the flow of illegal firearms in the Commonwealth.

Democratic lawmakers and advocates also are concerned about current state gun legislation that’s been described as “dangerous.” This includes Senate Bill 448, which would allow anyone to sue a local municipality for enacting gun-safety policies, and Senate Bill 565, which would allow anyone age 18 or older to carry a concealed firearm without a permit. Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, said he thinks both bills leave people in possession of guns unaccountable.

“Despite public outcry and countless vigils, we’d rather – as a Legislature – not burn a moment of midnight oil on finding solutions to this cascade of death across Pennsylvania,” he said. “For some here in the Senate, Republicans, the solution is easier access and more guns.”

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny County, has said Senate Bills 448 and 565 were poised to run out of committee this week, but now are postponed because of the Tree of Life anniversary.