Can/should Pa. lawmakers act to curb gun violence?

(WHTM) – Three killed at  Planned Parenthood in Colorado.

A police officer shot and killed in Westmoreland county.

Two more gun deaths in Harrisburg.

It was a blood splattered weekend from coast to coast and across the commonwealth. Statistically, there have been more multiple shootings in America in 2015 than there have been days in 2015.

Guns in the wrong hands are a problem in the nation, in the state and in the city. The usual suspects are blamed: poverty, broken homes, video games that glamorize killing, plentiful guns and mental illness.

But other than point fingers, is there anything state lawmakers can or should be doing about the problem?

“That’s a good question,” said Representative Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin). “I’ve been thinking about that myself.”

Marsico chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He sees, and is disturbed by, the violence. But he blames broken homes, which legislation can’t fix.

“A lot of it comes from what’s going on in the house, the home, families, that’s a lot of it,” Marsico said.

Representative Patty Kim (D-Dauphin) lives in and represents Harrisburg, rocked by two homicides over the weekend.

“I feel like with some students here (Harrisburg), it’s easier to get a gun than a schoolbook,” Kim said.

Kim agrees with Marsico, to a point. She says angry kids from broken homes too easily resort to gun violence to settle their disputes. But she also believes guns are too easily obtained in the city. She’d like to see legislation that would limit handgun purchases to one a month.

“So that maybe by the end of the year you have 12 (guns). You do not need 50 per month. It’s ridiculous and we need to slow down the flow of guns,” Kim said.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of gun violence in our communities,” said Stephen Drachler, with Heeding God’s Call, an activist group that works to reduce gun deaths.

Drachler has planned vigils for victims of gun violence in the city. But Drachler is also the former press secretary for House Republicans. He’s saddened by the deaths in the streets but understands how things work in the Capitol.

Drachler would like to see tougher background checks on gun purchases with an emphasis on mental health screening. He thinks guns should be more closely tracked and those who lose them should report them lost or stolen. He calls those common sense tweaks that will not violate anyone’s second amendment rights. He also says judges need to step up.

“We believe our present laws dealing with possession of guns and illegal use of guns should be strictly enforced,” Drachler said. “People should not get a pass.”

And Drachler doesn’t give a pass to the hard-core pro-gun crowd that blindly recites the mantra “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

“It is about the guns. It’s about the guns and the person who has his hand on the gun. The gun is an extension of the person. It’s illogical to say, ‘it isn’t about the guns.’ Well, it is about the guns,” Drachler said.

“It used to be people would settle their arguments with a fistfight,” Drachler added. “Now we’ve progressed to the point where we settle disputes with a gun. That’s just wrong, it’s sad and it’s bad for the long term health of all of our communities.”


Drachler said the gun violence problem is complex and can’t just be legislated away. Laws alone are not the answer, he said.

Which is probably moot anyway.

Drachler and Kim both believe that the conservative nature of the General Assembly means that any legislation that even hints at controlling handguns has no shot of passing in Pennsylvania.

So the death toll will mount.

The blood will continue to spill.

And elected officials, who insist that public safety is their top priority, will continue to wring their hands and wrestle with a basic question: What can they DO to stop it?


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