EDITORIAL: Small, but welcome, step to reduce gun tragedies
York City Police Lt. Matthew Leitzel speaks about the gun buyback event on Oct. 27, a collaboration between the police department and the York County District Attorney's Office to collect unwanted guns to keep them out of the hands of criminals.
Political progress is often an arduous process.
Change, real change, can often take years, even decades.
It typically comes in incremental steps that can be easily overlooked.
That seems to be the case with a piece of legislation that Pennsylvania lawmakers overwhelmingly passed Wednesday, Oct. 3.
For most folks, the bill’s passage likely got lost in the avalanche of coverage given to the contentious Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the legislation is not important.
Actually, to the contrary, it’s a vital, if small, first step toward curbing gun violence in our state.
Bipartisan support: According to an Associated Press report, the Republican-controlled state Senate, by a 43-5 vote, approved the first anti-violence legislation in more than a decade that deals directly with firearms.
The state House had previously passed the bill, 131-62.
It came only after years of lobbying by violence-prevention organizations trying to persuade a state Legislature that is historically very protective of gun rights.
The bill forces Pennsylvanians with a domestic violence ruling against them to more quickly surrender their guns.
That seems like a no-brainer. Those with a history of domestic violence should not have easy access to guns. As history sadly shows us, it’s a recipe for tragedies.
Still, Pennsylvania politicians have long been reluctant to make any laws that restrict gun access, so any move in that direction is welcome and should be applauded.
The fact that the latest bill enjoyed bipartisan support is also a surprising change of pace in our current divisive political climate.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he plans to sign the bill.
Spurred to action by Parkland, #MeToo movement: Advocates say February’s Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that killed 17 people and the pervasiveness of the #MeToo movement helped propel the bill through the Legislature.
"It took a long time, it was a slow process," said Deb Marteslo of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "It's a mind shift here in the Capitol, but it happened and we're deeply grateful. The winners here are the victims of abuse."
Marteslo is right.
It took a long time and it was a slow process, but progress, small as it is, has been made.
We should be wary: The basic gist of the new bill is this: People convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence or subject to final restraining orders must surrender their guns within 24 hours.
There is more to it, of course, and we should be wary, because the devil is always in the details, and the exceptions.
In addition, making the law, and getting people to obey the law, are two entirely different matters.
A step forward: Nevertheless, this is a step forward and it’s been a long time coming.
It’s the first time that the Pennsylvania Legislature has approved an anti-violence law targeting firearms since 2005, when it gave judges the discretion to seize firearms in restraining orders.
Hopefully, we won’t have to wait 13 more years for the Legislature to pass its next meaningful anti-violence law that deals with firearms.