Pa. lawmakers debate gun reform laws ahead of Tree of Life shooting anniversary

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The three-year anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting has come, and Democrats are upset that there have been no gun reforms passed in the legislature lately. In fact, they say, there is actually a push to give more people access to more guns.

Three years ago, 11 people were killed and six were wounded in a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue. “That was an act of antisemitism and an act of hatred that was weaponized by easy access to firearms,” state Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny County) said.

The synagogue sits in Frankel’s district, and he attended it as a boy. The pain of the shooting is still fresh for him, and so is the frustration that what advocates call “common-sense gun reforms,” like universal background checks and the need to report a lost or stolen firearm, have not moved in the Pennsylvania legislature.

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Gov. Tom Wolf and other lawmakers and advocates held a press conference on Tuesday to promote gun reform measures and condemn proposed bills that could loosen firearm restrictions.

“Shame. Shame on the Republican majority in the House and the Senate,” state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-7th District) said.

They also blasted Senate Bill 448 that would let anyone sue a municipality that enacts its own gun rules and Senate Bill 565 that would drop the concealed carry age from 21 to 18 and eliminate the need for permits.

“The trauma of gun violence cuts right to the heart of each of our communities. Gun violence is pervasive,” Wolf said.

Kim Stolfer, who is with the gun rights group Firearms Owners Against Crime, argues gun laws do not work and are not prosecuted appropriately.

“He’s recommending more pursuit of gun-free zones that failed at the Lancaster mall shooting and also failed at the Tree of Life synagogue,” Stolfer said.

As for letting 18-year-olds carry concealed firearms without a permit, Stolfer said, “If you can die for your country at 18, why shouldn’t you be able to protect your life? And you’re an adult.”

When asked if he would veto those proposed Senate bills if they were to pass, Wolf gave a one-word answer: yes.

In a statement emailed to abc27, the Senate Republican spokesperson Erica Clayton Wright said, “SB 448 and SB 565 were not scheduled to run this week…I don’t have any commitment as to if and when they would run.”

Wright also said, “The press conference held today by the governor and democratic leadership was presumptuous as we are not running second amendment bills in the Senate this week. It’s difficult to comment on legislation that was not intended to run.”

Instead of the gun-related bills, Wright said this week the Senate is “working to get…Pennsylvania’s economy back on track by advancing a small businesses tax reform package (SB 349 and SB 347) to help small businesses in their recovery and to remain competitive.”

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