PA House Starts Movement On Gun Control Bill

In the wake of Parkland, gun control bills popped up in every state house throughout the nation. Every anti-gun politician just knew it was time to push for new regulation. Some tried to make the regulation look like something that might have prevented the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, though not all did.

The most recent to jump on that bandwagon appears to be the state of Pennsylvania.

The House judiciary committee on Tuesday approved two much-anticipated gun proposals. The first would close a loophole and cut off access to firearms for domestic abusers and the second would make it easier for relatives to get firearms taken from people who pose a threat to themselves and others.

The committee votes followed six days of public hearings convened soon after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

The vote signals the closest the Republican-controlled House has been to passing gun control measures in years.

“Parkland opened a lot of eyes,” said Deb Marteslo, the Pennsylvania chapter leader for Moms Demand Action. “It opened a lot of minds.”

State Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County, the chairman of the judiciary committee, said his goal had been to identify legislation that would get bipartisan support, while protecting people in a way that will “respect our constitutional rights.”

“One thing that I took away from the committee’s hearings was that many members are willing to consider legislation that addresses dangerous people,” Marsico said. “The members overwhelmingly wanted to encourage mental health treatment, for example.”

The judiciary committee approved the domestic violence loophole measure, House Bill 2060, by a 21-6 vote, after it was amended to mirror language in Senate Bill 501. The Senate passed SB 501 unanimously in March.

The committee also voted 18-9 to approve House Bill 2227 which would create an extreme risk protection order, allowing people to get a judge or district judge to issue a temporary order seizing an individual’s weapons until a full hearing can be held to determine if the person should get his or her firearms back.

To be clear, these are some of the least egregious gun control bills possible. The truth is that no one wants domestic abusers to be armed. The problem is that those convicted were already legally barred from owning such firearms.

The problem with HB 2060 is that it looks like the bill also bars ownership for anyone under a restraining order. The problem here is that these can be granted on some pretty flimsy evidence. This can be pretty concerning to me. It’s not the end of the world, mind you, since a temporary restraining order only leads to a temporary restriction of one’s rights, but it’s not difficult to see this being abused.

The extreme risk protective orders, however, are a different matter.

These need to be handled extremely carefully. In a charged environment, judges may well feel it better to grant such orders and be proven wrong than not, which means people may lose their Second Amendment rights for a period of time because someone is a little freaked out by someone else. Since some people are freaked out by the mere existence of firearms–trust me, it’s happened–this could easily lead to innocent people being branded as a risk.

Pennsylvania tends to be fairly pro-gun, all things considered, but these are still concerning. I’m not ready to lump them in with New York or California, mind you, but none of this is what I would consider good news.