Bethlehem Press

Monday, September 16, 2019

Wolf seeks to curtail gun violence

Tuesday, August 27, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

Governor Tom Wolf has signed an order to make sweeping changes to executive branch agencies and programs to better target the public health crisis of gun violence. The executive order is the result of months of work by the Wolf administration to focus on substantive steps that can be taken to reduce gun violence and make communities safer. Wolf was joined by Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Charles Ramsey, who will use his expertise in a new role advising the executive branch on implementing these changes.

The nearly two dozen new initiatives and reforms directed under the order fall into four primary categories:

• New oversight and data sharing

• Reducing community gun violence

• Combating mass shootings

• Addressing the rising number of gun-related domestic incidents and self-inflicted shootings, including suicides by gun

Wolf has directed the administration to create new state offices focused on violence prevention and reduction, expand programs that promote safety, refocus departments on combating gun violence as a public health crisis, and increase collaboration and data sharing between the public, government agencies and other states.

“Too many Pennsylvanians are losing their lives to gun violence, and even more Pennsylvanians’ lives are being disrupted by the terror and fear caused by gun violence,” Wolf said. “We simply are not doing enough to stop people from dying and to give communities the peace of mind that they deserve. This order will make sure the executive branch is doing more and focusing on gun violence as both a public safety problem and public health crisis. I will continue to engage the General Assembly in order to advance important gun safety reforms when they return to session.”

More than 1,600 people died in Pennsylvania from gunshot wounds in 2017, a rate above the national average. While all types of violence must be addressed, guns account for the weapon used in 74 percent of all homicides and 52 percent of fatal suicides in Pennsylvania. The spikes in gun violence have led to billions of taxpayer dollars going toward efforts to increase security in schools and other public places and provide medical care to survivors, while families and communities have suffered incalculable losses when loved ones die of senseless gun violence.

Wolf said he recognizes that executive action alone cannot end gun violence in Pennsylvania. In addition to his call for a federal assault weapons ban, he will also call upon the General Assembly to pass safe storage legislation to reduce the number of accidental shootings, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, also known as the red flag law, and mandating universal background checks by the Pennsylvania State Police on all gun purchases.

Governor Tom Wolf recognizes the Second Amendment, but believes all Americans and Pennsylvanians have the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that also must be protected. The executive action he will take will provide greater protection for all Pennsylvanians by targeting various types of gun violence with both preventative and proactive programs.

State Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, said later in a statement, “I strongly support the governor’s executive order to reduce suicides, homicides and mass shootings in Pennsylvania, but as he said, an executive order on gun violence is not enough. My colleagues and I must take up common sense gun legislation, including closing background check loopholes and ‘red flag’ laws that would prevent those who are deemed a danger to themselves or others from having access to guns.”

Contributed article