Gary Bayne and Josh Fleitman: Brackenridge chief murder demands tougher gun laws in Pennsylvania
Amid an avalanche of horrific acts of violence in Allegheny County over the past year, the January 2 murder of Brackenridge Police Chief Justin McIntire is another traumatic and high-profile reminder. of the toll of gun violence in our communities.
But even more infuriating is the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way. Stricter gun laws would keep guns out of the wrong hands and protect both law enforcement and the general public from the growing threat of gun violence, while respecting responsible ownership. of firearms.
Last year, Allegheny County recorded 122 homicides, including 112 shootings.
Across the state, a Pennsylvanian dies from gun violence every five hours, on average, or more than 1,700 deaths each year.
Yes, there is absolutely an important role to play for strong law enforcement and the incarceration of certain people who pose a proven threat to public safety. But the reality is that short of imposing life sentences or executions on anyone who presents the slightest risk of being violent, a law enforcement strategy, which is reactive in nature, can only be a part of the solution. A comprehensive approach to armed violence prevention must also emphasize proactive measures. We must prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands before they cause damage.
This year, Harrisburg has the best opportunity in a long time to make progress on this vital public safety issue. It is time that common sense, life-saving, bipartisan and broadly popular gun safety legislation was finally passed.
We can reduce the flow of illegal firearms that fuels so much communal violence by enacting basic law requiring the reporting of lost and stolen firearms. One study found that these laws reduced the movement of traced illegal weapons by 46% compared to states without such laws.
We can prevent many of the 900 gun suicides in Pennsylvania each year by passing an Extreme Risk Protection Order law, often referred to as the “red flag law.” This uses due process and civil procedure to temporarily restrict people’s access to a firearm when they pose a threat to themselves or others.
And we can make it harder for the next mass shooter to get their hands on a weapon of war by closing a loophole in our background check system that allows the private sale of long guns without any checks.
How can we do it? It will take all Pennsylvanians — Republicans, Independents and Democrats — coming together in the spirit of protecting each other. This is going to require legislators who are willing to hear from the bipartisan majorities of their constituents who support common sense solutions, including many gun owners and those in law enforcement and veterans communities. This will require honestly acknowledging the overwhelming body of evidence that shows how tougher state gun laws mean less gun violence, and accepting the long-standing legal tradition that such laws are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and with responsible gun ownership.
But, above all, it will be necessary for every Pennsylvanian to understand that their voice has great power in our democracy. Contact your state legislators. Engage in dialogue with your family, friends and neighbours. This is how change happens. And we need change now, more than ever. Will you join us in seizing this opportunity to save lives from gun violence?