Inaction, division won’t stop Pa. gun violence, common sense, unity

Guns are now the number one cause of death among young people in Pennsylvania.

Not car accidents.

Not cancer.

Fire arms.

As someone looking forward to becoming a father later this year, I think about that stat a lot. Truth be told, I sometimes worry about the kind of world we are bringing our child into. Can we keep her safe? Can we keep our neighborhoods and schools safe for all our children?

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The epidemic of armed violence that afflicts our republic and our country is unacceptable. It is breaking up families and communities, including in western Pennsylvania. In recent months, shootings have taken place in Erie County, Westmoreland County, Indiana County, Armstrong County, Somerset County and Cambria County. This is not a “Philadelphia” problem or a “Pittsburgh” problem. Unfortunately, this is an American problem.

Rep.  austin davis

Rep. austin davis

But it is a problem that we can do something about.

The Pennsylvania House recently took bold, bipartisan action on legislation that would require background checks on every firearm sale (House Bill 714) and provide a mechanism for loved ones, family members, or law enforcement the order to ask a judge to hold a hearing to temporarily disarm someone in crisis (House Bill 1018), also known as the extreme risk protection order or “red flag” law. I thank the Republican and Democratic lawmakers who supported these bills. As public servants, we must never shy away from the tough fights. We should embrace common sense solutions and push back against those who suggest we can do nothing to prevent gun violence.

Erie Police spoke to people on Cherry Street at West 16th Street after a shooting was reported in the area shortly before 3:50 p.m. on April 3, 2023. The report of a shooting in the 1600 block of Cherry Street coincided with a shooting in Columbus Park, about a block to the west.

Erie Police spoke to people on Cherry Street at West 16th Street after a shooting was reported in the area shortly before 3:50 p.m. on April 3, 2023. The report of a shooting in the 1600 block of Cherry Street coincided with a shooting in Columbus Park, about a block to the west.

The proposals adopted last week are common sense. In fact, overwhelming majorities of Pennsylvanians support “red flag” laws and universal background checks for gun purchases. We have a proud tradition of responsible gun ownership in the Commonwealth, and these bills protect the legal rights of gun owners, while making our communities safer. That’s why they’re backed not just by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, but also by law enforcement officials.

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These bills are important parts of the gun violence prevention toolkit. However, we can do more. Ultimately, we need a comprehensive gun safety strategy that includes addressing the root causes of violence, such as poverty, unemployment, and substance abuse issues.

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This includes ensuring that law enforcement and community organizations doing violence prevention work have the resources they need. The Shapiro-Davis budget invests heavily in public safety, including funding nearly 400 new soldiers to protect and serve the Commonwealth, providing tax credits to help communities hire more police, and increasing funding for the for Violence Prevention and Intervention Grants at All-Time High. $105 million. That’s what I’m focused on as chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, where we bring together the best experts, use the latest research, and study best practices from across the country to make our communities more sure.

These bills are before the State Senate, and as Lieutenant Governor I urge my colleagues to consider them. Let’s have a full, open and honest debate about what we can all do to prevent gun violence. The Shapiro-Davis administration stands ready to participate in this conversation, and we cannot let politics stand in the way of progress on this issue. Our children and our communities rely on us to make it happen.

Bringing the leaders of both political parties together to get things done is hard work. Governor Josh Shapiro and I are committed to this fight, so that every Pennsylvanian has the freedom to live in a safe community and every child is safe in school and in their neighborhood.

Austin Davis is the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Lt. Governor Austin Davis urges support for common sense gun reform in Pennsylvania.

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