Pennsylvania Governor Pushes Bipartisan Gun Control Reform

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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is taking the initiative to pass a much-needed piece of gun control legislation.

The Democratic Governor called on Monday for a bipartisan effort to pass Senate Bill 501. The bill, sponsored by Senator Tom Killion (R-Del.) would prohibit domestic abusers subject to final Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders from possessing firearms.

Mass shooters often have a history of domestic abuse. This fact has become evident in the majority of our most recent mass shootings – why our current laws overlook this pattern is a case of negligence.

Governor Wolf wants to see change.

“We must protect victims – spouses and children – of domestic violence and attempt to prevent domestic abusers from escalating their violence in everyday places that result in mass murder. It’s time for the General Assembly to act on this bipartisan, commonsense legislation to protect victims and reduce violence.”

Recent research presents all-to-clear the alarming correlation between mass shootings and domestic violence. From 2009 to 2016, there have been 156 mass shootings in the United States. The shootings resulted in 1,187 victims shot: 848 people were shot and killed, and 339 people were shot and injured. 54 percent of cases were related to domestic or family violence.

Senate Bill 501 would remove third-party safekeeping as an option for a defendant ordered by the Court to relinquish firearms, weapons, and ammunition. Defendants would no longer be able to transfer firearms to a relative, friend, or neighbor, etc. They would be required to surrender their firearms.

The bill would also require abusers to surrender with 24 hours of conviction of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence versus the current 60 day period.

Other Measures Pushed By Gov. Wolf 

SB 196 – Allows a judge to order electronic monitoring of a PFA defendant if they are at risk of violating the PFA.

SB 449 – Provides assessment tools for Magisterial District judges in cases of domestic violence to determine bail for a defendant based on the risk posed to a victim.

SB 500 – Provides for a law enforcement official to accompany a victim to his or her residence before or during the service of a PFA order.

SB 502 – Allows judges to extend the terms of a PFA order or create an entirely new one if the order is set to expire or has expired while a defendant is incarcerated.

SB 919 – Allows a resident of a county housing authority to request relocation if they or someone affiliated with them has experienced domestic or sexual violence.

When it comes to federal gun control legislation, one of the major issues is the “boyfriend loophole.” The loophole refers to the Lautenberg Amendment, approved by Congress in 1996. The law only concerns relationships that involve marriage, domestic partnerships, and children. So, if you’re not in a legally committed relationship, you can still own a firearm if you’ve been convicted of harming your partner.

The Lautenberg act excludes casual partnerships and exes. It prohibits abusers from purchasing guns but allows them to keep whatever weapons they already own. Those convicted can also skip out on background checks by using a private seller. They can buy guns even if they have temporary protective order filed against them.

The legislation Governor Wolf wants will make a difference. But the push for stricter gun control is far from over, and necessarily so. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that a shooting never again takes an innocent life.

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