EDITORIAL: Bipartisan, commonsense gun control can be done

The York Dispatch

In the past, gun control has been such a divisive issue in America that not even the regular massacre of school children could bring the left and right together on commonsense reforms.

Yet attitudes might be changing after the February murder of 17 people, most of them students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

If history does show this to be a turning point, we will likely have that attack’s young survivors-turned-activists to thank for finally waking the country up.

David Hogg, a survivor of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., speaks during the "March for Our Lives" rally in support of gun control in Washington, Saturday, March 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

These students wasted no time organizing very effective protests, school walk-outs, petitions and boycotts in the name of gun control.

They haven’t wavered, even under despicable attacks by the powerful, paranoid thugs who have hijacked the National Rifle Association, a once-venerable gun-safety and marksmanship group.

Likewise, some businesses are finally standing up to the NRA, severing ties with the group or taking steps such as tightening restrictions on purchasing firearms or ending the sale of certain types of weapons altogether.

Lawmakers, too, seem less cowed by the NRA, which spends large sums of money to convince the gullible masses that even reasonable gun control measures are attacks on the Second Amendment.

In March, Congress passed a spending bill that provided funds to shore up gun purchase background checks and removed language that for decades had prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence.

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2018, file photo, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, second from right, and Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, second from left, walk to a news conference, in Parkland, Fla., to speak about the shooting the day before at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photographs of the Florida sheriff with one of his deputies, a Muslim American, prompted many sites’ false claims that Israel had terror ties. The stories appeared alongside criticism of the office’s response to the school shooting that killed 17 people. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

And states are taking it upon themselves to act on gun control. The nonprofit, nonpartisan MinnPost reported last week that 15 states have passed some form of gun control since the Parkland, Florida, shooting, “from Democrat-led states like Oregon and Washington to states with Republican governors, like Utah and South Dakota.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, in March signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which raised the minimum age to purchase firearms, created a three-day waiting period for all purchases, and allows a court to prohibit violent or mentally ill people from possessing guns.

Here at home, York County lawmaker Seth Grove, a Republican from Dover Township, has bipartisan support for a bill he introduced to close what he sees as a major loophole in Pennsylvania’s gun laws.

More:York County Republican Seth Grove proposes gun control legislation

Grove and Rep. Tim Briggs, a Montgomery County Democrat who co-authored the bill, note that someone convicted of murder, rape or burglary are prohibited from possessing a firearm, but state law make the same prohibition for someone convicted of attempted rape, conspiracy to commit murder or solicitation to commit robbery.

“To be quite blunt; this makes no sense,” he said in a news release. “As shocking as this problem is, the legislative fix Rep. Briggs and I came up with is straightforward and simple, and will not affect any rights of any law-abiding individual to possess a firearm.”

State Rep. Seth Grove, (R) sits with the York Dispatch editorial board for a discussion about taxes and the state budget. Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. John A. Pavoncello photo

Grove's bill would add “attempted,” “conspiracy to commit” and “solicitation to commit” to the same list of crimes that already prohibit a person from possessing a firearm under state law.

The bill has the backing of fellow York County Reps. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township; Kate Klunk, R-Hanover; and Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, who all serve as co-sponsors.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday, a Republican, applauded the effort.

“From a law enforcement and prosecutorial perspective, it is vital that we keep firearms out of the hands of those who have demonstrated a propensity for violence,” he said.

Granted, Grove appears to be taking aim at some of the lowest-hanging fruit on the gun control tree, but it’s encouraging to see him and his fellow Republicans doing something about the problem.

House Bill 2275 was introduced just last month, and it has a way to go before reaching the governor’s desk.

More:Wolf pushes to end gun-show exception to background checks

Still, if lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can get behind this measure, perhaps there’s hope for other efforts, including Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal for expanded background checks.

It’s not that difficult to balance our constitutional rights with commonsense rules. Isn’t that the point of lawmaking?

It’s well past time for our legislators to put party politics aside, stand up to the deep-pocketed extremists and do the right thing.