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OPINION: When It Comes to Gun Laws in PA., Common Sense is Not Too Common

This article was submitted by State Rep. Donna Bullock, who represents the 195th District of Philadelphia. To contact Rep. Bullock, visit http://www.pahouse.com/Bullock/.

Recently in a House State Government Committee hearing, an “expert” witness – Dr. John Lott – testified that gun ownership curbs gun violence. This comes two days after nine young people were shot a few blocks away from my home – none of them over the age of 25. As dozens of neighbors gathered to celebrate the weather, 27 shots were fired into the crowd. The victims of these crimes are typically young, African-American men between the ages of 18 and 34. Homicides are already up from this time last year, and it’s not even summer yet.

As a neighbor, I am concerned for the safety of my fellow neighbors. As a mother, I am worried about my two young sons. However, as a state representative, I want to see action from my colleagues in Harrisburg.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Dr. Lott’s suggestion that owning a gun reduces the occurrence of crimes with guns. I am confident that neither the 1,238 victims of gun violence in 2015, nor their families, would agree with his assertion either.

He, and many of his colleagues, would remove all Gun Free Zones throughout the Commonwealth. This would allow guns in our K-12 classrooms as well as throughout our colleges and universities. He even went as far to insinuate that tragedies such as the Charleston church shooting would not have occurred if someone in the church was in possession of a firearm. This displaces the blame from the shooter to his victims and is completely unacceptable.

His distortion of facts is not only wrong, it’s troubling.

We know that states with the highest homicide rates also have the highest firearm death rates. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that states with weaker gun laws were much more likely to have higher gun death rates. This includes gun owners not being required to register their firearm, and individuals not being required to obtain a permit or produce any form of identification to purchase a gun.

We know that since 2006, over 14,500 people have been shot in the City of Philadelphia. Data from the Philadelphia Police Department suggests that a shooting occurs at the rate of once every six hours. On average, 83 percent of all homicides that occurred over the past 10 years were committed with a firearm.

We also know that our Commonwealth’s rate of firearm homicide is among the highest in the country – especially among communities of color. Each year, more Pennsylvanians die from gun violence than car accidents. Moreover, Pennsylvania is known to be a top supplier of guns recovered from other states that were used to commit crimes.

Instead of widening the gaps in our gun laws that may lead to more gun violence, we should push for smart gun reform. As a member of the PA SAFE Caucus, I stand with my colleagues as we fight for universal background checks, limits on magazine capacity, as well as implementing ways to reduce and prevent straw purchases. It is time that we have honest conversations about gun reform. I hope we can do that in our next House State Government Committee hearing.

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