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OP-ED: It's way past time to act on gun violence
As America reflects on yet another tragedy involving gun violence, I want to remind Pennsylvanians what a large, albeit minority, number of lawmakers have been trying to do to curb the incidence of gun violence in the state.
First, I urge readers to not fall for the line that we do not need to talk about gun policy because this one specific tragedy in Roanoke, Virginia, could not have been prevented by sensible gun laws.
Big-moneyed interests like the NRA continue to be successful in keeping Pennsylvania's General Assembly and legislatures across the nation from enacting sensible safety measures, such as reporting lost or stolen firearms or universal background checks, because they spend an exorbitant amount of money making people believe that the gut-wrenching tragedies we see in the news do not apply. They want people to believe that any sensible action we can take would only infringe on constitutional rights and not curb gun violence. This simply is not true.
For more years than I care to count, I and others have advocated and introduced legislation that would rein in the proliferation of illegal guns on our streets, and better address mental illness and gun ownership. None of the measures we've tried to advance infringe on law-abiding citizens' ability to buy, own and use guns for hunting, self-protection or legal recreational purposes.
We have legislation ready that would require owners to file a police report when their guns are lost or stolen, to better address straw purchases and illegal guns on the streets (House Bill 1020). There's also legislation that would close Pennsylvania's remaining loophole on background checks for long guns (House Bill 1010).
Another bill (House Bill 1498) would require the Pennsylvania State Police to send all existing mental health data within 90 days to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and require ongoing submissions to the national database within 72 hours of the state police receiving mental health data.
Today we could pass legislation (House Bill 1030) to provide a mechanism for families, friends and others to petition the court for a firearm restraining order when there is good cause to believe an individual poses an immediate threat to the safety of a family, household member or other person by possessing or having a firearm, other weapon, or ammunition in his or her control.
It's way past time for our state and our nation to take some real action on gun violence — action that could prevent the tragedies that happen every day, whether you see them on the national news or not. I urge Pennsylvanians and all Americans to let their lawmakers know that enough is enough.
— State Rep. Mike O'Brien, www.pahouse.com/OBrien, is a Democrat representing the 175th District in Philadelphia.