In the aftermath of the deadly school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last Wednesday, several Pennsylvania Congressmen have presented potential legislative ideas regarding gun ownership and school safety. So far, there have been four distinct proposals, which are described below.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders
Senator Daylin Leach (D), Senator Wayne D. Fontana (D), Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R) and Representative Todd Stephens (R) have all proposed versions of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) to deal with gun control. An ERPO would allow citizens who have a reasonable suspicion that someone may be a threat to themselves or society to ask a judge to temporarily confiscate that person’s guns and prevent him from buying more. The burden of proof would lie with the accuser to provide evidence showing warning signs, and the accused would be able to defend himself. Currently, four states have these orders, and nineteen more are considering them.
Assault Weapons Ban
Senator Wayne D. Fontana (D) plans to introduce legislation to expand what is considered an assault weapon to include more than 150 different models of guns and then to ban all assault weapons. Additionally, he wants gun magazines with more than ten rounds to be banned. Senator Fontana reasoned: “I feel that my legislation is sensible ban on military-grade weapons that have no place in civilian life and are unnecessary for self-defense.”
Representative Christopher M. Rabb (D), taking inspiration from the Second Amendment, plans to propose legislation for the creation of a militia for Pennsylvania. The Second Amendment states:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Instead of arguing against the Second Amendment, Representative Rabb is seeking to use the Amendment to justify the creation of a state militia and the subsequent requirement of militia membership for those who wish to possess certain classes of guns. In his call for a militia, he passionately appealed to other Pennsylvania lawmakers for support by declaring: “The federal government has abstained from action… we as state lawmakers have a moral obligation to act.”
Gun Liability Insurance
Senator Lawrence M. Farnese Jr. (D) wants to require gun owners to buy gun insurance before purchasing firearms and gun sellers to check that the buyer has insurance before selling. Insurance companies would evaluate how much to charge potential gun owners for insurance based on age, mental health background, financial status, and other criteria, and those with greater risk factors may have to pay more or be denied coverage. People will be held liable for harm caused by their gun, which may help prevent situations in which one person buys the gun for someone unable to buy one. Senator Farnese Jr. hopes that having this requirement may provide “economic disincentives” to owning guns.
None of these ideas have been officially proposed in the Pennsylvania Congress yet, but their Congressional sponsors have all declared their intentions to introduce their ideas to the legislature soon. With a currently GOP-controlled Congress in Pennsylvania, it may be difficult for the proposed state gun control legislation to pass; however, with the recent redistricting of Pennsylvania and upcoming midterm elections, gun control advocates may have a chance.
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