On the one year anniversary of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-Bucks), State Representative Perry Warren (D-Bucks), and former State Representative Helen Tai joined students and gun safety advocates in front of Council Rock North High School to call for the passage of safe storage firearm legislation.
Senator Santarsiero is the primary sponsor of Senate Bills 137 and 138. SB 137 requires the safe storage of a firearm when the gun owner resides with a person who may not lawfully possess a firearm; SB 138 requires safe storage regardless of who resides with the gun owner.
Santarsiero, Warren’s predecessor in the State House, has been a leading advocate for gun violence prevention legislation since 2012 when, shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, CT, he offered legislation to require background checks on all gun purchases. He began Thursday’s press conference by noting that the fight to end gun violence has been a long one.
“I know this has been a long and often frustrating road for those of us who have been working on this issue for years now. But as we stand here today on the first anniversary of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, we must rededicate ourselves to this task. There have been 377 mass shootings since then, 20 alone here in Pennsylvania, including the murders at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Enough is enough,” he said.
In the House, Rep. Warren introduced HB 532, which mirrors Santarsiero’s SB 137. Rep. Briggs (D-149) is the primary sponsor of HB 525, requiring the safe storage of firearms in homes where children may be present.
“It’s time to stop this culture of gun violence,” Rep. Warren said. “It’s time to take concrete steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who will do with them harm. It’s time to stand up for our schools, for our children, for our families and communities, and I’m proud to be here today with my colleague to do this.”
Former Rep. Helen Tai, who championed safe storage legislation while in the House last year, spoke about the widespread support for gun safety legislation and the local impact not of not having these laws in place.
“The overwhelming number of Americans and Pennsylvanians want common sense gun safety laws passed,” former Rep. Tai said. “These laws would prevent countless children from accidental deaths or shootings and would’ve prevented Cosmo DiNardo, who was legally banned from possessing a firearm, from using his mother’s gun to murder four young men.”
Samantha Duckworth, a senior at Council Rock High School North, talked about her experiences as a young student growing up around the constant school shootings across the country.
“It’s scary to go to school,” Duckworth said. “It’s scary to live with the fear that you might get gunned down one day in your classroom. A year ago at Parkland, something changed for a lot of students. We saw ourselves in the faces of the students who died that day. Marjory Stoneman Douglas School is a lot like Council Rock North. The teachers there are a lot like our teachers, the students there are a lot like our students, and the classes they have there are a lot like our classes, so that day for a lot of us we realized this really can happen to us.”
A statement by Shira Goodman, executive director of CeasefirePA, praised the Bucks County lawmakers for standing up for the safety of fellow citizens.
“CeaseFirePA is pleased that Sen. Santarsiero, Rep. Briggs, and Rep. Warren are focusing on safe storage of firearms,” Goodman stated. “The absence of such laws in PA makes us less safe. There are many homes where law-abiding gun owners live with people who are not legally allowed to possess firearms — because of their age, criminal history or another prohibiting factor. It is the responsibility of the gun owner to prevent access to those people — for their own safety and for public safety. Safe storage laws educate and motivate good practices, prevent suicides and homicides, and keep us safer. Pa should join other states that have such laws.”
Santarsiero ended the event with a charge and a challenge. “Before the torch is passed to the generation represented by these students here with us today, let those of us who currently have the power to pass legislation and affect change, act. We need to protect everyone in our community,” he added. “Requiring safe storage is simple, reasonable and will save lives. Let’s make it the law of this commonwealth. Let’s pass this legislation.”