By Jack Stollsteimer
Times Guest Columnist
Earlier this year a man walked into a Wawa in Radnor Township armed with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle and murdered the mother of his child. While it is true that laws alone can’t stop every deranged person from committing a tragedy by misusing a firearm, common sense gun laws are tools law enforcement can use to make communities safer. This is a subject I know well, having spent four and half years working to stop gun violence as a federal prosecutor and firearms policy analyst.
That’s why I was wearing orange Saturday in Media at Delco United for Sensible Gun Policy’s “Wear Orange Rally and Walk to End Gun Violence”. And if I’m elected Delaware County District Attorney this November, I will use the platform of that office to fight for the following common sense gun laws in Harrisburg and Washington:
• Universal background checks – under current law our national and state background check systems have prevented millions of sales to would-be prohibited purchasers, more than 200,000 of those in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, too many legal loopholes in these systems still remain. H.R. 8 currently under consideration in Congress and strongly supported by our own U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5 of Swarthmore, would close those loopholes nationally and must be passed into law this legislative session.
• Extreme Risk Protection Orders – similar to protection from abuse orders in domestic relations matters, ERPOs are court orders that allow family members or law enforcement officers to temporarily remove a person’s access to firearms when they are believed to be very likely to harm themselves or others. Currently 14 states have enacted such laws and Pennsylvania can adopt this smart policy by passing Senate Bill 90, sponsored in part by Sen. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, into law this legislative session.
• Assault weapon ban – assault weapons like the AR-15 are generally high-powered semiautomatic firearms, similar to weapons used by our military services for combat. Assault weapons have been used in nearly every deadly mass shooting that’s plagued our country since Columbine. In 1994 Congress passed bi-partisan legislation that banned assault weapons in the United States for 10 years until the legislation expired due to National Rifle Association pressure in 2004. It’s time to pass a new, comprehensive assault weapon ban.
• Reporting of Loss and Stolen Firearms – Pennsylvania needs to pass legislation requiring gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm within 24 hours of the discovery of the loss or theft.
• Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act – incredibly the NRA is now working to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because the legislation would close the “boyfriend loophole” by barring those convicted of abusing or assaulting a dating partner from buying or owning a handgun.
Each of these proposals represents common sense policy changes that would greatly help law enforcement to better protect our communities and to save innocent lives. The time for action is now.