Pennsylvania Lawmakers Deplore Gun Violence and Push Looser Gun Laws

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MondayPresident Joe Biden recalled the passage of the bill that sought to reduce national gun violence. It incentivized states to pass tougher gun laws. This would make it harder for domestic violence convicted to purchase guns, and tighten the review process to gun purchasers younger than 21. “What we’re doing here today is real, it’s vivid, it’s relevant,” Biden said. “It’s proof that despite the naysayers, we can make meaningful progress on dealing with gun violence.”

“You have to do more,” interrupted attendee Manuel Oliver, whose son was killed in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. Oliver later spoke out to the media, saying that he was disappointed with the fanfare surrounding the limited legislation that would not eradicate gun violence epidemic that is a national problem.

Gun violence is all around, and Philadelphia is no exception. The Fourth of July was a day of celebrations., the hail of bullets hardly made the news — overshadowed by a deadly mass shooting the same day in Highland Park, Illinois. Two police officers reported that they received minor injuries in the Philadelphia shooting. However, no one was killed. It was one of many occasions for Pennsylvania legislators to lament gun crime in Philadelphia which saw a record amount of homicides last fiscal year. 562 people killed. Despite their rhetoric, Pennsylvania legislators have done everything they can to avoid dealing with the issue. Instead, they’re considering legislation that would weaken gun laws, despite Biden’s state-directed incentives.

Republicans control both chambers in the Pennsylvania General Assembly and have inserted language that would permit people to conceal weapons without permits. (Last Year, Democratic Gov. A bill with similar language was vetoed by Tom Wolf. At the same time, they have advanced legislation to restrict the ability of Philadelphia’s district attorney, Larry Krasner, to prosecute certain gun crimes and Public transit crimes. After Krasner had been reelected with 70% of the vote in May, they launched an attempt to impeach him. In the event that this fails, a second bill would limit him only to two terms.

More than 25 legal advocacy groups and criminal justice reform organizations wrote an article on Friday open letter to Pennsylvania House leadership stating their opposition to the efforts to undermine Krasner. “At this moment, it is imperative that we do not waste time on a disingenuous endeavor to impeach a democratically-elected district attorney. The legislature has an opportunity to declare gun violence a public health crisis and move to enact legislation that addresses the structural and systemic inequities at the heart of that crisis,” the letter reads. “In fact, at the very moment intentions to impeach were being announced, the legislature voted down a slate of bills that sought to address gun violence.”

“The impeachment is a circus. It’s just an election-year ploy.”

The focus in Harrisburg on Krasner’s office is an attack on democracy and the rights of Black and brown voters in Philadelphia, said Robert Saleem Holbrook, a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the executive director of the Abolitionist Law Center, a public interest law firm that was one of the signatories on Friday’s letter.

“The impeachment is a circus. It’s just an election-year ploy,” Holbrook said. “It’s a way for Republicans to try to galvanize their base to create an issue to bring their people out for the gubernatorial election. I normally wouldn’t give much stock to such a circus, except for the fact that it’s also about democracy and agency of Black and brown Philadelphians and Philadelphians in general, who in 2021 elected Krasner overwhelmingly to a second term.”

Philadelphia is the only county in the state where a person Risks of being convicted of a crimeOn a clean record, carrying a firearm with no license would be a misdemeanor. Krasner’s office has dismissed some gun cases to avoid saddling people with felonies, Holbrook said.

“They don’t care about Black and brown Philadelphians,” Holbrook said of the legislators fighting Krasner. “If that was the case, they would do more to stop straw purchases. … What they care about is turning Philadelphia back into the mass incarceration machine of the state.”

Following the passage in Washington of legislation that aimed to reduce violence against national firearms on July 11, 2022 (in Washington, D.C.), President Joe Biden speaks.

Photo by Tom Brenner, Washington Post via Getty Images

Just days after three Republican state representatives AnnouncementThey were asking for support to impeach Krasner. Similar Republicans, Reps. Joshua Kail and Torren Ecker, voted in the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee to gut a gun control bill and allow for the carrying of permitless and concealed handguns. Todd Stephens, a state representative, was the only Republican who voted against the measure’s elimination. Kail, a week later was the main sponsor of a resolution to create a committee to investigate Krasner. Stephens, Ecker, Kail and Ecker were all part of a bipartisan group that voted for the resolution.

Some Republicans, particularly in rural areas, don’t realize the impact of gun violence in their communities, Stephens told The Intercept. “For a lot of my colleagues, they don’t see gun violence affecting their communities on a daily basis the way many others do,” he said. “I wish that there were a greater awareness about the gun deaths that are occurring in rural Pennsylvania so that it might become a greater priority for those representatives representing those communities.” Stephens added that he supports red-flag laws as well as comprehensive and universal background checks.

“I think there’s a general misunderstanding about how gun violence impacts rural Pennsylvania,” Stephens said, pointing out that suicides make up a majority of all gun deaths in the state, and particularly in rural Pennsylvania. “Suicide is not something that’s carried in the mainstream media, it’s not something that’s readily discussed throughout our community.”

While politicians and mass media are focused on violence in urban centers but murder rates are high, The skyrocketedRural America A Study last summer showed that suicides in rural parts of Pennsylvania were on the rise and that there were more handgun sales per every 1,000 residents in rural areas than in urban areas.

Kail said that Pennsylvania already has strict gun laws, and “you could pass all the laws you want,” but challenged, with respect to Philadelphia, “What good does a law do if you don’t have district attorneys who are willing to enforce them?” Asked about gun deaths in rural areas, Kail said that if there was a specific instance of a DA in a rural area “not enforcing laws on the books,” he’d be happy to look into it, but “the lives that are being lost, the situations have come out of Philadelphia.”

The recent moves are just the latest in a yearslong attempt by Pennsylvania lawmakers to chip away at Krasner’s power. The General Assembly quietly passed a bill in 2019 take away Krasner’s authority to prosecute certain firearms violations in the city and instead gave that ability to the state’s attorney general. Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is currently running for governor, said he would Support a repeal of the controversial law after pressure from advocates at that year’s Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia. The law was set to expire at the end of Krasner’s first term, but the General Assembly quickly took up an extension.

The trend isn’t unique to Pennsylvania. Federal lawmakers are also turning away from the gun crisis plaguing America in favor of piecemeal legislation that has little impact other than pushing and posturing. More funding for policeWho have you been? Several times it failed to stop mass shootings — and in some cases, even made them worse.

National Democrats need to win a Senate seat in Pennsylvania in November in order to have any chance to pass meaningful legislation before the end of Biden’s first term in office. But lawmakers in the party aren’t treating the remaining four months until the 2022 midterm elections with a commensurate sense of urgency, said state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, who represents South Philadelphia. Fiedler is just one of many progressive lawmakers who have been elected in recent times and has faced similar criticisms to Krasner’s support for popular criminal justice Reforms.

Disappointment with Biden at the national level is also prevalent at the state and local level, Fiedler said. Philadelphians were ImportantBiden helped win the state in 2020 four years after Trump’s election. Since then, Democrats throughout the state have lost control and let the story be dictated instead by Republicans. Republicans have used their state legislature control to target Krasner, and passed very few other bills.

Things that Biden promised to those voters — taxing the wealthy, eliminating student loan debt, and passing a robust agenda to combat the climate crisis — have slid “so far off the radar,” according to Fiedler. Democrats in the state just voted to cut Pennsylvania’s corporate tax rate significantly over the next decade, a policy that voters in the state overwhelmingly Oppose. A bipartisan group of legislators, headed by progressive officials, has just passed a major bill to help homeowners.The leaders of the UT party blame progressives for narrowing the margins in both houses.

“It does not feel like the path to building a stronger party,” Fiedler said. “There is a path to victory for Democrats locally and nationally, but it has to include an emphasis on taxing the super rich to invest in things a majority care about including care and climate.” But the legislature’s current focus is elsewhere.

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