Political officials on both sides of the political aisle in Pennsylvania have been weighing in on the ongoing debate over gun control on the heels of the pair of weekend mass shootings in Ohio and Texas.
State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzeme, the chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel will hold a series of public hearings that she described as “a prelude to action” in a statement.
“The rising and devastating toll from mass shooting obligates officials at every level to determine potentially effective remedies,” Baker said.
From her perspective, Baker said she believes gun control legislation needs to address a broad range of issues around the complex topic.
“That means not only examining what can be constitutionally accomplished in respect to weapons and ammunition, but the dire need to upgrade mental health services and to confront the climate of hate and bias that encourages supremacists and others to act in violent and destructive ways,” Baker said.
Further details of when and where the public hearings will be held are forthcoming.
Baker said the sessions will provide an opportunity to hear all sides of the gun control debate and look at how existing legislation has held up.
“In looking at new requirements or restrictions, we also must evaluate how recent steps have been implemented and whether they are making a measurable difference,” Baker said. “Taking symbolic steps sends a message, but it ultimately does not save lives.”
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, issued a statement Monday in response to the shootings, which have resulted in a combined 31 deaths — 22 in El Paso and nine in Dayton — and additional injuries.
In the statement, Wolf said he is calling on the U.S. Senate to reconvene and pass House Resolution 8, which pertains to background checks. He described it as “a sweeping gun safety bill” and referred to it as “the biggest and most immediate step” in addressing gun violence.
Wolf also is calling on state lawmakers within Pennsylvania to do more to curb the accessibility of guns.
“I urge the House and Senate to address this issue,” Wolf said. “In Pennsylvania, as long as it is a private sale, any person can still buy an assault rifle to commit a mass shooting without a background check. We still don’t have a ‘red flag’ law that could get these weapons away from someone who was known to be dangerous.”